§ *THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. P. B. ROBERTSON,) Buteshire
moved for leave to introduce the following Bills:—Bill to amend the laws relating to local government in Scotland; Bill to make supplementary provisions for amending the laws relating to local government in Scotland; Bill to amend the laws 1814 relating to the election of Parochial Boards in Scotland; and Bill to amend the procedure in regard to Private Bills relating to Scotland. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said,—The four Bills which stand in my name embody the proposals of Her Majesty's Government regarding local government for Scotland in the wider sense of that term. Before closing, I shall explain to the House what is the relation of the several Bills, and what are the region and scope of each. But my main purpose is to explain the measure of which each is apart, and, accordingly, I shall venture to invite the attention of the House to the whole of the Bills, as forming a scheme for local government in Scotland. The matter in hand is large and detailed, and I shall have, I fear, to make a large claim upon the indulgence and patience of the House, and for that reason, if for no other, I abstain from all but the fewest general observations on the importance of this subject. But I think that the statement of a few principles may better remind the House of the difficulties of the question, and also of the spirit in which the Government undertakes to deal with it. In the first place, I hope that all in the House will agree that a satisfactory measure of local government for Scotland must be distinctively Scottish in its acceptance of characteristic methods of administration, in its development of them, and, if necessary, also in its terminology. Secondly, while the primary object of all such measures is good administration, yet it is right as largely as possible to apply to local government that popular interest in public affairs which is characteristic of the times. Related to that last proposition, I may say that regard, on the other hand, must be had to the serious problems presented by the existing system of rating in Scotch counties, in view of the general principle that the administration and rates should be in the hands of those who provide them. In the next place, the scheme must be one applicable to the whole of Scotland, and it must, therefore, be fitted to stand the strain of the various social and economic conditions to be found in a country which extends from the English border to the farthest Hebrides. Lastly, I think all will agree that, however ambition might prompt in the opposite 1815 direction, the scheme, while comprehensive, must be of such reasonable dimensions that it can pass through Parliament. The question is sometimes raised whether in the general view of local government one should begin with the larger or smaller unit or area of administration. I confess, keeping especially in view the proposals with which I am charged, that comes to be much more a question of rhetorical or argumentative arrangement. But my grounds for saying so will better appear when the scheme is further developed. I propose to speak first of the government of counties, and in order to define that word I must deal in the first place with burghs. I speak of burghs rather for the purpose of clearing the ground of a subject with which, fortunately, we do not require to deal. The Royal and Parliamentary burghs in Scotland are very numerous; some are large and some are small. But each one of them is a completely equipped and self-contained municipality. The county authorities do not exercise any jurisdiction within the Royal and Parliamentary burghs, and, on the other hand, those burghs do not contribute to the county rates. Now, I profess to a predilection for the Royal and Parliamentary burghs of Scotland, which I believe is common in that country; and I have a superstitious dread of raising a hand against the organization of those homes and centres of civic life in Scotland. But, viewing the matter in a more utilitarian and rationalistic spirit, I cannot help thinking, in a Bill the object of which is to extend Municipal institutions in Scotland, it would be a singular beginning to pull them down where they already exist; and, accordingly, we propose to leave the Royal and Parliamentary burghs as they stand, subject only to two modifications. At present, the burghs of Scotland are equipped with a separate and independent police force where they have over 5,000 of population; and it has sometimes been a matter of observation that that is rather too small an area to maintain a force, and that the general efficiency would be greater if the forces were attached to larger areas. That is a point to which attention was recently directed. It will be in the recollection of hon. Gentlemen who sat on the Select 1816 Committee on the Burghs Police and Health Bill that the conclusion come to was that it would be better to raise the figure from 5,000 to 7,000, and to fix 7,000 as the limit at which the separate burgh police forces should be merged in the county police. We propose to carry out that recommendation. The second instance of deviation from the principle I have stated is in regard to the administration of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act. There, again, every Royal and Parliamentary burgh is a separate Local Authority, and there again we propose that they should be merged in the county when under 7,000. A word now as regards what are called police burghs. They are, again, subject to these two modifications, and subject to the limit of 7,000 population which I have mentioned; otherwise we leave the police burghs just as they are. They will retain their complete independence and autonomy. Accordingly, I part with this branch of the subject by saying that I believe we shall fulfil the loudly-expressed desire of the burghs in Scotland, and I think I may also consult the general convenience if we leave them in the full enjoyment of their pristine independence and autonomy. That leads me to consider the administration to be provided for the counties apart from the towns. I think it is convenient that I should remind the House of what is the existing administration and what are the bodies which at present wield power in the counties. Speaking roughly, we may say that there are four bodies which require to be mentioned—the Commissioners of Supply, the Road Trustees, the Local Authorities under the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act, and the Justices of the Peace exercising those miscellaneous administrative powers which are vested in them by Statute. I desire to assure the House at the outset that it is only administrative functions we propose to meddle with in the government of the counties. The House knows that for the peace of a county the Sheriff is responsible. With him rests the duty of maintaining order, and in his hands are the use and the disposition of the police force, which is provided and equipped by the county body. Accordingly, it is with a complete reservation of these judicial powers, which would be entirely beyond the 1817 province of any such measure, that I proceed to discuss the changes we propose to make. The Commissioners of Supply are a body in which are vested considerable and various powers. They are the most important body in the County, and so far as administration is concerned, the Justices of the Peace do not figure nearly so largely among them as they do in England. The Commissioners of Supply consist of the owners of property only—the owners of land of £100 annual value and the owners of houses of £200 annual value. It is therefore a body consisting entirely of landowners. If it be said that that is an anomaly, it must be borne in mind at the same time that there is a correlative anomaly in the rating, because the whole county rates which are levied by the Commissioners of Supply are levied on owners only. Accordingly, representation and rating have gone together in the most definite and complete way, with this one exception. The Commissioners of Supply levy their rates on all owners of property, even on those under £100 value. That is the only defect or anomaly in the system known as representing the combination of representation and rating. I will mention one or two of the leading duties of the Commissioners of Supply. They are charged with the duty of equipping and maintaining the police force in the county, but it would be an error to say that the Commissioners of Supply have all the functions relating to police which, at first sight, might be implied from that term. They rate for the police; they maintain the police; but, so far as the management of the police, the appointing of the Chief Constable, suggesting an alteration in the numbers of the force and the like, are concerned, the functions rest not with the Commissioners of Supply, but with the Police Committee, consisting of the Lord Lieutenant, the Sheriff, and a certain number of elected Commissioners of Supply from their own body, the numbers being from three to 15. Another important duty of the Commissioners is in regard to valuation, and I hope that my hon. Friends behind me will not object to my saying that I think that the Scottish system of the valuation Poll is one which has points on which commendation is not thrown away. They have maintained the sys- 1818 tem of valuation, they have also, through a Statutory Committee, the duty of disposing of appeals against valuations. Besides that, they have duties under the Registration Act and under the Lunacy Acts, and they have a general charge and custody of public buildings in the county. Such, then, is the first and most important existing County Authority in Scotland, the Commissioners of Supply. I now come to the Road Trustees. There is no distinction in Scotland as to main roads; the whole of the roads in the county are vested in the County Road Trustees and are subject to their management. This body consists of the Commissioners of Supply, with certain elected members who are chosen by the ratepayers in every parish, the only persons not voting at those elections naturally being the Commissioners of Supply, who have already a seat on the Board. This body acts through an executive body called the Road Board, and it also divides the county into districts managed by District Road Committees. A half of the Board is composed of Commissioners of Supply and a half of elected members, and, as you have one-half of the rates levied on owners of property and a half on occupiers, the principle of representation with rating is consistently adhered to. But there is one exception to that rule of rating which is of considerable importance and significance. Many of the roads in Scotland are charged with debt; the debt on new works is met by rates, levied solely on the owners. Here, therefore, you have the element of capital expenditure falling upon owners only, and the works being controlled and ordered by those who pay for them. The next of the four bodies I mentioned is the Local Authority under the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act. That, again, is composed of Commissioners of Supply and of representatives of occupiers; and there, again, the rating is half on the occupier and half on the owner, and representation and rating go together. With regard to the fourth body, the Justices of the Peace, I cannot carry the illustration into that region, because they have no authority to levy rates. The general result, therefore, is, as I have said, that in all cases representation and rating at present go together. There is another feature which completely distinguishes the case 1819 of Scotland from that of England. None of the county rating falls upon occupiers only. In burghs, on the other hand, the rule is the other way, and there, accordingly, you have the ratepayers' franchise; you have household suffrage, and you again find that the general principle which I have referred to as of parallel importance is systematically adhered to. That is the state of matters with which we have to deal, and the question is, what is best to be done, or, as I should put it, how can we popularize County Government, and at the same time not lose sight of the wholesome principle that those who administer and control, should pay? I do not suppose that it will be possible to frame a scheme with doctrinaire preciseness harmonious with these principles. The best you can do is to settle your institution in such a way that there shall be an adequate and effective recognition of the principle. The House will not be surprised to bear that we have begun by setting up a County Council. It is proposed that the Chairman of the new County Council shall bear the time-honoured name of the Convener of the County. As to the constitution of the Council, we do not propose to have a separate representation of owners or a separate representation of occupiers. All will be elected by the same constituency. When I say that I do not refer to the electoral divisions, but to the quality or composition of the constituency. We do not propose that there shall be Aldermen. I base that refusal on patriotic grounds. Aldermen we know not, and I gather that there is a general acquiescence in the negative conclusion. There is an apparent deviation from the principle that the Council shall consist solely of elected members. This is a matter of expediency and convenience. We suggest that the present Convener of the county, the present Chairman of the Road Trustees, and the Local Authority, and the Lord Lieutenant shall sit in the first County Council. I will say at once that this is not suggested as a balance or check upon the power of the Council, but merely because they are the depositaries of an amount of experience in the management of county affairs which seems to make it highly convenient that they should be on the Council at the initiation of the new system. I rather 1820 think when hon. Gentlemen consider the various circumstances under which the County Councils are started that they will regard this as a very convenient proceeding. It is only a suggestion for the more efficient starting of the Council, and it is not meant as a check or watch upon the operations of the new Councils. It is proposed that the constituency to elect this Council shall be substantially, though not formally, the same as in the burghs—that is to say, that it will consist of qualified ratepayers, including women, and also Peers who are disqualified from voting for Members of the House of Commons, but who ought to be, by universal consent, qualified for voting at such elections. Another element which requires delicate handling is that of the service franchise voters. The importance of this body is, I believe greater in Scotland than in England. The question is how to enlist their interest in local public affairs when they are not at present rated. That is a very serious difficulty, and it does not seem justifiable to throw to the winds the principle of representation and rate-paying together, and I should deprecate any attempt at making a bargain with any class by saying, "We give you the franchise, but saddle you with a local burden." It is, therefore, proposed that any qualified service franchise holder may claim to be put on the County Roll on his payment of the county rates. The service franchise holder would merely undertake the very inconsiderable burden represented by his share of the county rates, and that indebtedness will be an evidence of the sincerity of his desire to participate in what is, to a large extent, a matter of rating. The constituency that I have described is a completely popular constituency. It is proposed to transfer to the County Council, generally speaking, the powers exercised by the Commissioners of Supply, the Road Trustees, and the Local Authority, the Contagious Diseases Act, and certain specified statutory powers of Justices of the Peace, not including licensing. I am sure that hon. Gentlemen who know Scotland will join with me in saying that the Commissioners of Supply are a body whose conduct has been business-like and economical, while they have not been obtrusive or garrulous. I cannot help thinking that 1821 the House, if it has followed my exposition of the existing state of representation and of rating, will he startled by the anomaly it displays. What, then, should be done in order to meet the anomaly? It is impossible to meet it symmetrically or with mathematical precision, but at the same time we have provided a system which I am sure is liberal, and which I hope will be recognized as satisfactory. It might have been possible to rectify the anomaly to which I have referred by changing the incidence of county rating; but we have adopted another, and, I think, hon. Member will agree, a preferable method of attaining our object. In the first place we propose that there should be a judicial ascertainment of the amount of rates payable by owners only, and that this amount shall be sterotyped, as the amount beyond which burdens shall not be laid upon owners solely. The provision is that after the passing of the Act, the Sheriff of the County shall ascertain and determine what has been, during the previous five years, the average amount in the pound of each rate which is payable by owners only; that when that rate has been ascertained that rate shall as heretofore be payable in following years by owners only, and shall be included in the owners' consolidated rate; but where the rate to be fixed in future years exceeds in amount such average rate, the portion of the rate exceeding the average shall fall into the general public, and shall be paid by owners and occupiers equally. Accordingly, the House will perceive that it is proposed to stereotype the existing burden upon owners only. But if the future administration of the new body should necessitate an increase of the rates, then the increment shall fall upon owners and occupiers equally. That proposal has been well considered, and I think that it will be found to furnish, at all events, a mitigation of the anomaly which I have stated, and to present a fair guarantee for the recognition of the equitable doctrine which is indispensable for carrying through the consideration of such questions. I said that was the first of the provisions which regulate the imposition of the rates. But there is another. The House may, perhaps, recollect that I pointed out incidentally that in the existing law of rating there is a re- 1822 cognized distinction between capital expenditure, and that capital has been treated as a burden falling upon owners; and, accordingly, in that matter the voice of the owner alone is heard. That is in the case of new roads, and in the case of the rating required for debts. Well, Sir, that is an example of the necessary conditions of expenditure which ought not to be lost sight of, and what we propose to do as regards capital expenditure is this. We propose that works involving capital expenditure, and also the borrowing of money, which, of course, is an obligation of the nature of capital—that these shall require the consent of a Standing Joint Committee, which shall be composed of seven County Councillors and seven Commissioners of Supply, the Sheriff of the County presiding as Chairman of that composite Committee. I have already indicated that there are precedents for large and important interests in the Counties of Scotland being regulated by a composite Committee, and that, even in the days of the undisputed authority of the Commissioners of Supply, we have had something of the nature of a composite Committee. Here, again, we purpose that this same Joint Standing Committee, whose consent is necessary to expenditure on capital works, or for borrowing money—that that Committee should be the Police Committee under the new administration. I pause here to remind the House of what must not be lost sight of in our consideration of these proposals, and that is the great importance of the steady and continuous administration of matters relating to the police which the Legislature has hitherto shown—I do not say out of distrust of the Commissioners of Supply any more than we are now showing distrust of County Councillors; but they have shown that it is necessary to concentrate the administration and management of this delicate matter in a body that is representative of more interests than one. And accordingly, I trust that the House will approve of this solution of one of the problems of peculiar delicacy, at the same time that we find means of enabling and justifying the constitution of a popular County Council, without derogating from any interests which are subjected to it. I pass now from 1823 the transfer from the Commissioners of Supply to the County Council, and I turn now to the Road Trustees. The House is probably aware—at all events hon. Gentlemen representing Scottish constituencies are familiar with the fact—that there is a General Road Act for Scotland passed in 1878. There are, however, eleven counties which have not yet been brought under that general Statute. It was not contemplated when that general Statute was passed that those counties should remain outside the general system for more than a period of probation; and they had powers of electing to come in under the general Road Act if they pleased. Some of them, however, have stood out for this considerable time, and we think—now especially, when county administration is being reorganized—that they should be gently constrained to come into the existing system. We shall then have the full complement of functions and duties for the County Councils in all the Scottish counties, and the administration of the roads is one of the most important. Now, Sir, I have already mentioned that, while the roads in a county and the power of rating in a county are vested in the general body of county Road Trustees, the management is to a large extent vested in the hands of subordinate bodies. District Committees are constituted in each of the counties of Scotland to supervize and administer the roads in their district. I think my hon. Friends representing Scottish counties will agree that that system has worked extremely well—that the county is too large, and certainly the parish too small, to enable satisfactory management, unless you adopt an intermediate area; and, accordingly, we propose not merely that that method—as well as, I may say in passing, the whole scheme of the Road Act—shall not merely pass into the hands of the new body, but shall continue practically as before. But we do more. We have in the District Road Committee a very important example and lesson, and we think that this is an occasion on which it may be well to reconstitute the district committee and to add to its duties. It has sometimes been proposed that in our Scottish system we should have district councils, and no doubt there is much to be said for that. 1824 But one of the cross currents of public opinion in Scotland about local administration in Scotland, which has set in very strongly, is a great aversion to multiplied elections. And, accordingly, I think that the Scottish people generally will welcome a plan which enables matters which are better administered by districts than either by counties on the one hand, or parishes on the other, to be put into the charge of a body which you have got ready to hand. Well, Sir, we constitute it in this way. It will be the duty of the County Council to divide its county into districts, and I should think probably it will not find much difficulty in determining districts, because they, again, are already at hand in the road districts. But it is in their power, and they must consider the general convenience of administration, to divide the county into districts, and in the matters relegated to district management the district committee will be constituted thus. It will contain all the members of the County Council who sit for the electoral divisions comprised within the district; and, in the second place, of two members to be elected by each Parochial Board within the district. The reason why we propose this change will, I think, prove satisfactory to the House. I have hitherto spoken of transfers of powers from existing county bodies to the County Council and its committees. But I will now mention to the House a transfer we make from another quarter. At present the law relating to public health is administered by the Parochial Board in the county as the local authority, and judging from the opinions of those concerned in the administration in all its regions, I gather that that administration has not been completely successful. I believe that in many parts of Scotland the Public Health Act is little better than a dead letter, and it is most desirable that something should be done to add strength and vigour to the administration of it. Accordingly, we propose to divest the Parochial Board of its powers as local authority under the Public Health Act, and to transfer those powers to the County Council, to be exercised through the District Committees. We fix and settle the functions of the District Committees in this way, that we make them he Statutory Local Authority for their districts; and, accordingly, while the 1825 transfer under the Public Health Act is from the Parochial Board to the County Council, it goes direct, and is handed down for administration to the District Committees. That, I think, is not an unimportant feature in this scheme. And we take advantage of that change in the authority of dealing with Public Health to give additional powers. We propose, as my right hon. Friend did in the English Bill, that a medical officer of health shall be appointed by the County Council. Each District Committee will necessarily, in its administration of the existing Public Health Act, have the right to appoint its Sanitary Inspectors; and we are making provisions of a flexible kind, so that County Councils and District Committees may combine and make arrangements so as to utilize and economize the strength of the sanitary staff at the joint disposal of both. In the same relation, I may point out that we have given power to the County Councils to combine by joint committees where there are matters of common concern. Therefore, it will be observed that we piece together and link together the working of the various authorities I have mentioned, so that there will be an economy of strength and that common objects may be attained without each going about it separately. Now, I will mention, in a word, certain other powers which are conferred upon the County Councils. They will have power to resolve to oppose Private Bills, and they will have power to make certain bye-laws for the police regulation of the county. I do not dwell upon these, because I am sorry to say I have other matters in hand which, perhaps, require more serious attention. I shall briefly state some of the machinery by which this administration is to be set agoing. And, first of all, with regard to registration. From the additions to the constituency which I have mentioned, it will be obvious to hon. Gentlemen that we cannot act simply on the Parliamentary register—that there must be a new register for those persons who are brought in, and are not now on the register. Of course, that involves the preparation of another register, but I think when the details are examined it will be found that that is not a formidable matter, and we are endeavouring to make provisions which will render 1826 the additional cost very small. I have mentioned the ways by which persons whom we are going to entitle to vote for County Councillors, and who are unable to vote for Members of Parliament, are to be brought on to the register, and I therefore need not dwell on the machinery for effecting the rights we propose to confer. Then as regards the elections, we propose that the County Council shall be elected triennially, and that all shall go out together. We propose that the Council shall be divided into electoral divisions, and that one Councillor shall sit for each division—single-member divisions. One question arises as to how the electoral divisions shall be determined. It is, of course, a matter involving a great deal of examination of the district and the community in all its various bearings, and I think the more satisfactory way for the ultimate division is by a Boundary Commission. A Boundary Commission will command the absolute confidence of all concerned; and moreover, there is work for such a Commission in certain other matters, such as what in Scotland is called redding the boundaries for various jurisdictions. But then, if this Bill passes into law, there must be temporary provision for the division of the counties, and it is proposed that the Secretary for Scotland shall determine the number of members for each County Council, and then the electoral division will be drawn by the Sheriffs. I think that probably is the method which will commend itself best to the judgment of those who are acquainted with, I do not say the difficulties, but more or less the local particulars. Then, as to the qualification of Councillors. We propose that the only qualification shall be that the Councillor elected for a division shall be on the register of the county. I think the House generally will approve of that measure of limitation on the choice of the constituencies. Then, as regards the time of elections. We propose the election of Councils should be on the first Tuesday of December; that it shall be generally in the same manner as the election in burghs divided into wards, and that where there are burghs forming part of a county (which is the case of the smaller burghs), in those cases the election shall take place as part of the 1827 municipal election, and at the same time as the municipal election. This will save the worry of a separate election, and will also save a certain amount of expense. Then I have here to make a disclaimer, and I probably shall have to make one or two more. We do not propose to deal with the corrupt practices at such elections, and for this reason, that the whole subject of corrupt practices at elections other than Parliamentary elections is a large one of itself, and I think it would he inopportune and inconvenient if, in dealing with each elective body, we were to treat separately the question of corrupt practices, which should form a chapter in legislation of itself. I need hardly say that I very much sympathize with the anxiety which some of the constituents of the hon. Member for Dundee feel that this subject should as soon as possible be developed into a satisfactory conclusion, but I may say that this is only an instance of the very numerous suggestions which have been made, involving our taking up incidentally large subjects of legislation. We have had other plausible and excellent practical suggestions made about the simplification of the collection of rates. We have also had other suggestions of a very much larger character, but I am sure practical men must recognize that it is absolutely hopeless merely because some branch of an administration comes into contact with the County Councils that, therefore, we are to follow up the clue and redress the whole law relating to that subject. It is for practical reasons quite impossible. Accordingly, I express the hope that in the discussions on the Bill there will be some recollection of the practical limits within which the Bill must be confined if it is to attain the chief end of a Bill, that is, passing into an Act of Parliament. Now, I come to the finance of the County Councils, and I may say generally that we transfer all properties and liabilities of the existing Administering bodies. Therefore, with the modification which I have already stated as to rates, there is a wholesale transfer just as it is, of the system of rating, and also of the whole property of the bodies which are divested. I need not repeat what I have already stated as to the incidence of rating. It remains as before. But 1828 we think we can do something in the way of improving the method of laying on and collecting the rates, and without dwelling on the subject in detail, I may say that we consolidate the rates, but the demand note will set forth the various particulars which make up the total. But it will be a consolidated rate which is levied on owners and a consolidated rate which is levied on occupiers. In the region of finance, but merely as a matter of machinery, I may say that it is proposed that there shall be an annual budget setting out the financial condition of the county, and that the budget shall have its due measure of publication and discussion. And then I come to another matter which is of somewhat general importance. There is at present no effective audit of accounts in any local body in Scotland, and I believe there is a general feeling that this state of matters ought not to continue. One of the questions is how to provide an audit which shall meet the susceptibilities of persons concerned and at the same time be effective. I think there will be no objection to county auditors being appointed by the Secretary for Scotland, and their duties will run on from their appointment in such a way that there shall be a publication and a regular audit of accounts and a power of surcharge. It will be the duty of the auditor to state any case of surcharge and there are provisions made for putting the responsibility on the proper shoulders. I need not deprecate the idea that that is an invidious provision. It is a provision which ought to belong to every business establishment, and I hope an opportunity may be found for extending some such system to other bodies in Scotland. As to the officers of the County Council I do not think much difficulty will be found. There is at present existing in each Scottish county a Clerk of Supply, and it is only fair to the gentlemen who fill that office to say that they are admirable public servants—in all cases, I believe, men of high standing and character, versed in public affairs, and very well qualified to help in their administration. We propose that the Clerk of Supply shall become the County Clerk, but he necessarily will hold office at the pleasure of the County Council. It will be an immense advantage to the County 1829 Council to have these able and trustworthy officers at the initiation of the administration. All existing officers will be transferred to the County Council. There will be provision for compensation in the event of abolition of office or loss of emoluments, and the County Council will be masters of all appointments which may subsequently be made. I have said it will be necessary to appoint a Boundary Commission. Their duties will be the permanent settlement of electoral divisions, but I dare say hon. Members are aware that in many cases the existing boundaries between county and burgh are very irregular, and these irregularities dead to considerable inconvenience. We propose that there shall be a rectification where that is convenient, and accordingly there will arise, as a necessary consequence, such a rectification of groups of questions probably admitting of an amicable solution, but which, if allowed to drag out, may end in litigation. We propose that the Boundary Commission should have the duty of adjusting questions arising in this way. I thought on the first view of it that this would not be so complicated a matter as it subsequently appears to be; but I am satisfied that the most expedient way of rectifying and expressing these matters is by this machinery. We have provisions in this Bill for certain counties which stand in special circumstances, and the county which my hon. Friend (Mr. Hozier) represents is one of them. I do not think that I should go into these matters which are, after all, more or less of local interest. As regards Lanarkshire, and also as regards other counties, the proposals of the Government are put in the Bill as representing what they understood to be the general convenience of those concerned; but on that my hon. Friend will believe me we are most willing to hear all that may be said by way of modification, and to accept any suggestions which may be made. Now, I pass to a question of more general importance—the financial relations of the County Councils to the Exchequer. It has been determined that certain grants in aid of local burdens shall ultimately cease, and these are the grants relating to roads, police, medical relief, and pauper lunatics. Taking their amount, as I suppose it is fair to do, for the 1830 year 1836–7, which was the year when the question was opened for England and Scotland, the figures are these:—Roads, £35,000; police, £147,000; medical relief, £20,000; pauper lunatics, £87,000—total £289,000. The Exchequer surrenders local taxes and licences, £323,000, which if they stood alone, would represent a gain of £34,000. Hon. Gentlemen will observe that this bears a fair relation to the gain which ensued in England when the like transfer took place. Further relief is obtained from the probate duty, eleven-tenths of half of the probate duty giving £234,000. I have said my figures were given as regards 1886–7. But since then, as the House knows, certain additional grants have been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the old grants have in the interval of time grown. Therefore, in the current year the grants distributed are:—Roads, £70,000; police £156,000; medical relief, £20,000; pauper lunatics, £90,000, giving a total of £335,000. Besides that, there is an additional grant for pauper lunatics of £15,000; boarding-out children and deaf mutes, £6,000, which gives an aggregate of £356,000. The Probate grant is £234,000 and licences £323,000 giving a total of £557,000. We propose that in the first place the grants distributed this year—and this is the permanent arrangement—shall be continued through the County Councils and Town Councils. That amounts to £356,000, leaving over £201,000. But there comes in £30,000 which, I think there is general agreement should go to the Highlands. Taking this from the £201,000 you leave a sum for our disposal after the Probate duty has been met, of £171,000. Now, the question is, what shall be done with that? I think I shall state a proposition, which hardly admits of cavil, if I said it ought to go to burdens falling on the inhabitants of the several districts to be benefited. If the principle is sound, several methods may be conceived for carrying it out. The simplest of all is to apply it to the rates, but that cannot be regarded as the only method of effecting the object. It is merely, perhaps, the most obvious, and it was the one which was adopted in England. But when one examines a little more closely into the history of the application, in England, I think this is clear, that it 1831 was done, not because that is the only or necessary mode, but because in England popular feeling pointed out the rates as the part of the burden of the inhabitants of districts which pressed most heavily upon them. Unquestionably in England feeling was strongly decided that when the first opportunity came of applying such grants as these for the benefit of localities, the first claim should be relief of rates. Now, when I turn to Scotland, I find it impossible to say that the same strong feeling exists there about rates. In the discussion about Local Government, the lamentations about the amount and grievance of rates have not been so acute in Scotland as in England. Another subject has been advanced as one upon which Scottish interest and Scottish sympathy is much more largely concentrated, and that is the payment of school fees. I have said that in England the burden which was regarded as entitled to priority of preference when relief was to be obtained was the rates, and by parity of reasoning, the burden that ought to be relieved in Scotland is the burden imposed by school fees. I do not suggest that the proposal so to deal with this matter is to be regarded as acquitting or wiping out any claim for relief for local taxation. What we have to deal with is a desire in Scotland that another burden than the rates should be first dealt with. When one turns from the state of feeling to the popular demand and the reason of the thing, it is impossible to dispute the legitimacy of such a proposal. The local obligation of the ratepayer to pay rates results from the imposition upon him of a specific statuory duty. Another Act of Parliament compels him to send his child to school, and, unless he is to go upon the rates himself, that virtually imposes the relative duty of paying school fees. Therefore, even if we are in search of a burden, brought about by the Legislature, I cannot, in reason, deny that school fees are a burden upon those who are compelled to send their children to school. If that view were carried out, the application of the money would be to those whose children are at school by virtue of compulsion, and who have also to pay fees. But it is impossible to employ any test by which you can apply the benefit to the compulsory element. We must take some other methods. Before 1832 passing to the mode which seems to be the fairest and most adequate, I should like to point out two additional considerations which sustain the legitimacy of this mode of applying this money. The payment of fees confers not merely upon the parents, but on the inhabitants of a locality pecuniary benefits. It goes directly in relief of a portion of the rates in this way—I will not say a large, but a considerable extent, and in this way. To a proportion of the children who pay fees, the Parochial Boards, so far as the burden is concerned, stand in loco parentis, and, accordingly, for the fees of this large class the relief will come to the people who are ratepayers. Another case where the same direct benefit is conferred upon the ratepayers, I do not represent as amounting to a large item, but as a very striking illustration. It is known that in some parts of Scotland school fees have fallen into abeyance. In the Western Highlands, there is a mere bagatelle of school fees paid in some parishes; in others absolutely none at all. That is done, to a large extent, to the poverty of the district. I do not laud or commend the conduct of the School Boards in suffering that state of things to exist under the existing law; but there your grant will go directly to the Parochial Board, in order to meet the school fees which are at present not exacted. Accordingly, the Government cannot refuse assent to the proposal, which is not contrary to principle, which is sustained by the popular voice of that part of the country to be benefited, and which will, undoubtedly, confer very considerable practical advantages. Then, as to how this is best to be effected. I hope there will be universal agreement that no proposal to relieve parents only who send their children to Board Schools is admissible. You must relieve all whose children are sent to school, whether voluntary schools or School Board schools. Therefore, I think we are absolutely precluded from entertaining the idea of handing over this money for administration by School Boards. In the first place, it is not right that the parents of children attending the Board schools alone should receive benefit. In the second place, it would be a most inappropriate and most invidious hand by which to pass along the benefit to the other schools. It must go through the Edu- 1833 cation Department. I think the House will find that that is the only way, the only channel, by which this benefit can be equitably and conveniently conveyed to its recipients. There is another restriction upon the operation. We have only about £170,000, and I think hon. Gentlemen will agree that that would be taken only adequate to meet a certain amount of school fees. At the same time, it will meet a large amount. I abstain from going into details, because I have other topics to dwell upon, and this necessarily is a matter which requires close scrutiny and examination. That money, administered through the Education Department, will make a very appreciable relief in the matter of those school fees which belong to the class of elementary, and that is where the compulsory clause is in harsh operation. Accordingly, I have stated the conclusion which has been come to by the Government, and which I believe will give satisfaction to Scotland and to the House. I am happy to relieve the House from the consideration of the subject covered by the first two Bills as to the division of the matter. The main provisions are in the first Bill, and the second Bill contains what is necessarily a large amount of supplementary provision or machinery. If anyone tries his hand at the preparation of a Bill of this kind, and gives it four legs to stand upon, you require a large number of auxiliary clauses, and it is thought convenient to separate the portions of the Bill which belong to the first from the parts which belong to the second class. Now, I turn from the county to the parish. We propose to reform the Parochial Boards. I hope that hon. Gentlemen will not be disappointed when I say that we cannot undertake to deal in this Bill with the School Boards. There you have a strong instance of what I already referred to. If you enter upon that, you open a fresh chapter of legislation upon a vast and far reaching subject. You have the subject also complicated by the existing machinery and the, cumulative vote; and altogether that opens up a chapter of controversy and rearrangement which would form a very serious practical impediment to legislation on the other and more urgent matter. If the Parochial Boards of Scotland be scrutinized from a doctrinaire point of view—or 1834 the point of view of theory—I am afraid that they are not very defensible. There are burghal and non-burghal parishes. In burghal parishes there are seated at the Board four representatives of the Kirk Session, four representatives of the Magistrates, and certain number of elected Members—by Statute an un-determinate number, but determined by the Board of Supervision. In non-burghal parishes, which are the vast majority, the position is this: The Kirk Session is represented by a number somewhere about three, and the Royal burgh within the parishes is entitled to be represented; and then you have all the owners of land if over £20 a year value; and, besides, you have Members elected by the ratepayers other than the owners. That, however, does not complete the complexity of the machinery because in the election of the elected Members the ratepayers have a plural vote. That is determined by the annual value of the property upon which the ratepayer is qualified to vote as occupier. A man may be so fortunate as to have six votes, while others have but one. One startling result of this system occurs in the parish of Old Machar, in the immediate neighbourhood of Aberdeen. The number of owners of £20 value who sit on that Parochial Board is 2,164. Now, seeing that the business in hand is the administration of parochial relief, I think it will be agreed that to invoke and imply 2,164 Aberdonians is a great throwing away of intellectual power. It is easy to comment on the anomalies of that system, but, at the same time, I think that any one who considers the invidious, delicate, and most important duties of the Parochial Board, will not set lightly to work in the construction of a Parochial Board. It is all-important that the administration of parochial relief should, in the interests of the people, be in firm and steady hands; and one of the considerations which must be looked to in all proposals for electing Parochial Boards is the necessity of saving the people and saving the Parochial Boards from their being, in the discharge of those invidious and delicate duties, under pressure of most creditable sentiment. That, I think, the House generally will agree is an object which must be held steadily in view. At the same time, there does not appear 1835 to be reason for undue caution in the construction of a Board of this kind; and what we propose is this, that the number of the Parochial Board in each case shall be determined (as it must be determined when hon. Gentlemen think of it) with regard to the peculiar population and circumstances of each parish, by the Board of Supervision. I think the House will agree that you cannot lay down in a Statute the appropriate number for all the multitudinous parishes in Scotland, some 800 in number. It must be left to some central Board and the Board of Supervision, from its being in touch with all the Parochial Boards in Scotland, is the body upon which naturally that duty will fall. Then, how are the members to be elected? Without any straining after ingenuity, one tolerably obvious course arises in this situation. We propose that half of the Parochial Board shall be elected by owners, and the other half by occupiers. This is a case where you have a rate which is levied half on the owner and half on the occupier; and, accordingly, it does not require very great ingenuity to arrive at the conclusion that that is a tolerably fair course to adopt. I think it will also be found that that will bring together various elements in the parish which are interested in the subject. There is one practical difficulty in the way of working out that system which occurs when you consider the number of owners in some of the parishes. In some the number is very small. Some parishes are owned by one proprietor, and in some others there are the most exiguous numbers. That, however, does not occur in so many that it need present any fatal obstacle in the way of carrying out the proposal, and we leave it to the Board of Supervision to determine where the number is insufficient to procure an effective election, and in that case the Board of Supervision are to make up the owners' half of the Board. They are to do so by choosing owners or occupiers of over £50 in value, or other fit persons. The House will perceive that here is a body in which you have no political objects to serve, in which adminstration of the direst kind—and of a kind which requires firm and decided action—is all that has to be considered. We think it for the Board of Supervision to 1836 equip the Parochial Board in those comparatively few instances where the owning constituency is not large enough to equip it themselves. Then, I should add that we propose that these elections should take place at the same time as the elections for the County Councils, and that for the obvious reason of saving multiplicity of elections, and also expense. Then, I would remind the House that this subject is one which is closely linked to our scheme for the counties, because these Parochial Boards, constituted and elected in the way I have described, are the Boards which have to contribute each two Members to the District Committees, which form the intermediate organ between the parish and the county. I have now completed what I have got to say in regard to the Parochial Boards Bill, and I think I have sufficiently explained its objects. Now I pass to another subject of very high importance. I have spoken hitherto of affairs appertaining, to counties, to burghs, and to parishes. I now pass to a wider region, because here we enter the province of Parliament. But it is to be observed that the matters dealt with here, as in the other branches of this subject, are distinctly local; for every Private Bill, such as we are concerned with here, affects, directly and primarily, some-Scottish locality—it may be a county, it may be a burgh, it may even be a parish. And accordingly I am not trespassing out of the region we assign to ourselves by dealing with this particular subject. Nobody disputes—certainly I am not here to suggest a doubt of the soundness of the Constitution Rule which places such Private Bills within the province and arbitrament of Parliament. The question is merely as to the mode of conducting—the method by which Parliament shall best ascertain the facts which will enable it to dispose of them. And, accordingly, in our proposals the power of Parliament remains intact. Private Bills for Scotland will come into Parliament; will be read a second time, if Parliament so judge, in the Houses of Parliament as before; but when the Second Reading stage is passed then, ipso facto, by force of our Act, these Bills will stand transferred for ascertainment to a Scottish Commission. They will be reported upon by the Commission to the House from 1837 which the reference comes, and with their Report the function of the Commission in the matter terminates. The matter then falls back into the hands of Parliament. I feel that, in speaking upon this subject, I am trenching on a province to which one hon. Member has established a peculiar claim. The subject of Private Bill legislation has largely advanced in recent years, and it has reached, owing to the Report of the Joint Committee of the two Houses last Session, a stage in the history of public questions which gives it a commanding interest. I am bound to say that that result was largely due to the intelligent and persistent advocacy of my hon. Friend the Member for the Partick Division of Lanark (Mr. Craig Sellar). I am sure, when he hears the proposals which I am now going to make, his generosity and public spirit will make him rejoice at the further step which his favourite subject has taken; but I desire to the full to acknowledge how largely the position is due to himself. The Joint Committee reported upon the question of Private Bill legislation as a general question affecting the Three Kingdoms. The Bill which I propose relates to Scotland only; and there is a certain appropriateness in Scotland coming first, because while on the reason of the thing the Joint Committee were satisfied of the expediency of referring such Bills to a Commission, yet if you turn to national sentiment and national opinion, it must be allowed that the case of Scotland is much stronger than that of the other parts of the country. In Scotland there has come to be of recent years a general concurrence of opinion upon this subject among those who are directly affected by it. Our municipalities, our public bodies, our commercial bodies, our business men, are all most strongly in favour of this change. It has also taken hold—I will not say the imagination, but the reason, of the people in the several districts in Scotland in a way which entitles it to our fullest consideration; and the mode in which we propose to deal with it, I think, will show that hazard is run by no interest involved, and that great good may be done in the way of simplicity and economy. We propose that a Commission shall be appointed to deal with such Bills. It will be so constituted that each inquiry will be conducted 1838 by one Scottish Judge and two appointed Commissioners. We desire to say that the view of the Government is that it is specially necessary that there should be a blending of lay and public views on these questions upon the Commission. It is not a proposal to make it a legal question. It is rather a proposal to strengthen the body which investigates the fact, by placing at its head a man trained in the ascertainment of facts, and one who is likely to concentrate the attention of the Commission upon what is really relevant matter. The two appointed Commissioners will be selected in such a way as to bring the views of public men, men of affair, men of business, into contact with the views of the Judge. Then as regards the proceedings of the Commission, we propose that they shall hold their sittings for each investigation in such one of the several principal towns in Scotland as is most convenient for the locality involved. It is not, therefore, to sit solely in Edinburgh or Glasgow, but is to go to whatever centre of the country—using the word centre in a very wide sense—as is most accessible for those who are concerned. There is another provision which we think will be useful in introducing a formulated statement of local option to the notice of the tribunal which is investigating the facts. We propose that the County Council, or Town Council, within whose jurisdiction are the matters involved in a Private Bill, shall have the right, or the duty, to report upon the measure, and, accordingly, the Commission will be furnished with the matured views of the local representatives of the district of the county. Here, again, I think there is an opportunity for linking the various parts of the scheme which have been submitted to the House, so as to show that it is practicable and expedient to bring together the various subjects which pass under the phrase Local Government, and at once and in one view to pass practical legislation upon it. And now I have to thank hon. Gentlemen opposite, as well as my hon. Friends, for the extreme patience with which they have listened to what I am afraid has been a somewhat dry and detailed statement. I hope I have presented the Bills to the House so that they are understood. I invite hon. Gentlemen to await the presentation of 1839 the Bills in type before coming to any definite conclusion upon their merits. I claim for these Bills this: I think they are coherent and logical. I have already said that I deprecate the treatment of this subject piecemeal. I think it is necessary, in order to a right treatment of it, that it should be thought out from beginning to end. You may have plausible suggestions, and liberal suggestions, and popular suggestions; but if you adopt them in one part without thinking of the others, they will land you in irremediable confusion. It is in that spirit, and encouraged by the kindness of the House, that I venture to make a further appeal to patient consideration of the Bills I have presented. I think they will be found to be coherent. I go further. I think they will be found to be such a solution of those questions as would be arrived at by men divested of Party spirit, and, looking at this subject from the point of view of social welfare, I think it will be found when those subjects are probed that there is no part of them should pass into the region of Party politics. On the contrary, there are vast interest to be advanced and conserved in which we have all a common interest. I am afraid that much that I have had to treat of is prosaic and detailed, and although they cannot be said to be trivial matters, some of them are small. Yet, at the same time, the aggregate of these matters bulks largely in the civic life of a country. I believe if measures of this sort are passed, there will be a quickened interest in public affairs in the various localities in Scotland, and I believe also that they will further induce Scotsmen to pride themselves upon what is the highest franchise they possess, that they are the masters, along with Englishmen and Irishmen of the British Empire, and derive from the British Parliament their laws.
§ *MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
Sir, I imagine that it will not be the desire of hon. Members, and indeed it would not be possible even if they did desire it, to enter upon any detailed discussion to-night of the measures which the learned Lord has brought before them. But I am sure that I am expressing the general sentiment of the House, and in particular the opinion of my hon. Friends and 1840 right hon. Friends near me, and of those sitting on this side of the House who do not usually associate themselves with the Government and the Party opposite, when I congratulate the learned Lord upon two distinct grounds—in the first place, upon the exceedingly clear, lucid, and effective statement which he has made on a most complicated and involved subject; and, in the second place, upon his having been the spokesman of the Government in introducing the measures which he now brings forward—measures so comprehensive in their nature. There was, I think, some danger of what is commonly called a Local Government Bill for Scotland being framed, which would not be so comprehensive as we now find it is. We all know that last year the Local Government Bill for England dealt only with the superior government of counties, and that the arrangement and the machinery of the subordinate areas was left over to a more convenient season. It would have been a great mistake had this example been followed in Scotland, because County Government in Scotland—although I am far from underrating the importance of the reforms which may be introduced—is not of such immense importance as to excite the great interest it did in the case of England. But the Government have very wisely, as I think, determined to include the reform and re-arrangement of the subordinate bodies as well. Now, as I have said, this is not the occasion to enter upon any criticisms of the proposals now submitted to us on the part of the Government. There are, no doubt, many parts of the scheme, as unfolded to us by the learned Lord, which will excite considerable criticism—indeed, some opposition. I am afraid that, although he has gone a great length in liberalizing the whole system of Local Government in Scotland, there are many things omitted which we should have liked to have seen dealt with, and they will be matter for discussion afterwards. I would mention at once the fact that the new County Council is not to have the control of the police, and that the whole question of licensing is to be removed from their hands. The learned Lord has at all events dealt, with great ingenuity, with the thorny question which arises on any proposal of this sort—namely, how far you can 1841 reconcile in a country like Scotland the maxim of taxation and representation going together? We have always been accustomed to adhere to the maxim that taxation and representation should go together; but it is rather difficult when you come to invert the maxim, and say that taxation shall follow representation. In Scotland that is the difficulty experienced by anyone who seeks to interfere with the present arrangements of County Government. The learned Lord has dealt with that part of the subject, as I say, in a very ingenious manner, and I do not know that there is not much to be said for his proposal; but if I might borrow a phrase of his own, which struck me as an admirable phrase, as a means of conveying a certain modified opinion—I should say "it has points upon which commendation is not thrown away." I think, if I go so far as that, I am not committing myself to an entire approval of the learned Lord's proposal in that respect. A great number of the Members of this House will have heard with delight what the learned Lord said on the subject of the relief of School fees. It must be something in the nature of a triumph to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter) to find, although, perhaps, not according to the particular method which he advocated, that the principle which he has been urging so strongly has been adopted by the Government. I am afraid, however, there will be considerable resistance to the proposal to extend further the assistance given to denominational schools. But that is a matter which I leave for the present. Then I come to another criticism, which I think the learned Lord must have expected. When he has made so good and so homogeneous a constituency for all other local bodies, why does he fall back in the case of the Parochial Boards upon the division between owners and occupiers? It is, even in itself, inconvenient, because he has told us that he must devise a mode of introducing the Board of Supervision, in order to fill up the voids which would have been created in Parochial Boards by the system of election which he proposes. The fact that the Parochial Boards are to contribute each of them two Members to the District Council, which is to be the chief authority in 1842 other matters, besides the question of Poor Law, makes this question of really great importance. I say nothing of the proposals of the Government with reference to Private Bill legislation. I do not see why it was introduced into the general scheme, but when it comes fully before us, we will give it all the consideration which the subject so fully deserves. I do not wish to enter into any argument upon any of these Bills, and I would only say to the learned Lord Advocate that he and his colleagues may depend upon receiving from this side of the House the utmost co-operation and the manifestation of every desire to facilitate the great task which the Government have undertaken. We fully recognize, although it is necessary for us to point out some of the details upon which we differ, the bold and comprehensive spirit in which these measures have been framed; and I can assure the Government, as far as I am concerned, and I am sure I speak for my hon. Friends behind me, that they shall have our best assistance in carrying these proposals into effect in an amended form.
§ *SIR ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL (Renfrewshire)
I must congratulate my Friends and the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate on the way in which he has introduced these Bills to the House, which, I think, must also agree with me in congratulating him on the success he has achieved, not only because of the manner in which he has introduced the Bills, but also because of the matter of the Bills themselves, which, I think, will meet the desire of those who wish to see Local Government carried on on a broad, firm, and consistent basis in the country of Scotland. As convener of my country, I must say that we feel the kind words the right hon. Gentleman made use of when he spoke of the Commissioners of Supply, who have ere now done great and good service in that position, and I trust that those to whom we shall hand over the authority vested in us, will carry out the traditions of economy which we have followed, and do their best, as we have done in the past, to discharge their duty towards our country and our counties. Then, Sir, I must congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the manner in which he has proposed to use the surplus funds that have come to hand. I think that when that is flashed by telegraph to 1843 Scotland, it will carry to many homes in the North of Scotland great satisfaction, inasmuch, as the relief of a large number of ratepayers, to whom relief will be given by the use of the surplus funds and probate duty will be very great indeed. There are large numbers of those ratepayers who are struggling on the very verge of difficulty, and to them it will be a very great boon indeed. I am sure that that part of the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman will be received with great pleasure and much satisfaction. With regard to other parts of the Bill, it is very difficult for us at present to enter into their discussion, and I will not attempt to do so at the present moment. I can only hope that they will be met in the same spirit that has been evidenced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell Bannerman) and that ere long we shall be able to pass into law a Bill that will be a credit to the Government and do good to the country.
§ *MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
We must all, I think, agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for the Stirling Burghs in the opinion that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate was clear and distinct in every detail, so clear that it seems to me to carry with it a certain disadvantage to himself—the disadvantage that it exposes him to comments and speeches from hon. Members who have listened to it on this side of the House, and who feel that they are almost in as good a position to meet what he has put before them as if they had the Bill before them. There were, however, two or three points in the Statement which, it seems to me, are open to a certain amount of criticism. There was a phrase which the Lord Advocate repeated more than once, namely—that taxation and representation should go together. That is an excellent maxim in so far as it means that your representation is to go at least as far as your taxation. In the first place, a Bill of this kind is looked on with great anxiety in a country like Scotland because of the enormous power which its provisions may exercise. It is to be of advantage not only to the people directly affected, but it is also to be of even more genera advantage that you shall impose on all the citizens of the country, whatever their situation in life, some responsibility 1844 in regard to administering the affairs which concern them, whether they are taxed and rated or not. The people, rich and poor, are concerned in matters affecting their sanitary condition and efficient Local Government of every kind, and you cannot limit the principle of that representation or of that responsibility which exists in reference to these things by merely asking the question whether rates and taxes fall upon the people concerned. In saying this I go at once to what seems to me the most serious blot on the proposal of the Lord Advocate—I allude to what he said as to the service franchise. He says it is to be provided by this Bill that persons in occupation, who are only nominally rated, shall be able to get themselves put upon the list of ratepayers; and they, no doubt, when they are in service will enter into some arrangement with the person in whose service they are. He conveyed to the House that they will possibly put themselves in some better position for getting the benefit of the franchise. If there be any analogy between what has taken place in England and what is to take place in Scotland under this Bill, it will not have the least effect of that kind, because, as has been said over and over again with reference to the representation of the people, that where the occupation that does not mean physical occupation but a mere technical occupation, like that of a servant as the occupation of his master, the mere rating of the servant does not bring him within the category necessary to put him within the law as a rated occupier. If you are in earnest about the service franchise, you must provide what you have provided in regard to Parliamentary elections—that not a technical, but a physical, occupation, and an occupation of a much more general character than the Lord Advocate appears to contemplate, shall give the right to vote. You must make up your mind between two principles—whether you will exclude altogether a substantial part of the service franchise in reference to Local Government in Scotland, or whether you will take it in complete, as would be necessary if you were to extend the full benefit of the service franchise, and propose an efficient measure on the subject. Unless the Lord Advocate is prepared to go a good deal 1845 further, it seems to me that his proposal is simply nugatory. It may be that, by bringing in a large class of voters of this kind, you will go somewhat beyond the principle of taxation and representation going hand-in-hand; but I affirm that, unless you take the step I suggest, you will not pass any measure of Local Government for Scotland which will either be satisfactory to hon. Members on this side of the House or to the people of Scotland. You will not extend the area very much unless you draw the elective area sufficiently wide to make it coincide, or nearly coincide, with the people whose interests are immediately concerned. I now come to a pleasanter feature of the Bill—namely, that which relates to District Committees. This is certainly better than what is in the English Act. It was not the fault of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ritchie) that in the English Act of last year District Committees were not dealt with as is now proposed in the case of Scotland. It was, I believe, originally contemplated that there should be such District Committees, but the matter was held over for further consideration. I should certainly like to know a little more clearly before coming to a conclusion on the subject, what are to be the functions of these District Committees, and how much they are to take from the functions of the Parochial Boards? The Lord Advocate will probably say that this will only be understood when we get the Bill and criticize it. I shall certainly listen with great interest to what are to be the functions those District Committees are to exercise; because it appears to me that unless they are to take over a number of those functions which the Lord Advocate has not yet given us any indication of, they will not satisfactorily discharge the duties which we desire to see carried out. There is another provision which I think very bad in spirit—that is the two registers. I know the difficulties of the attempt to assimilate the Parliamentary and local franchise. I know it has not been done in England yet, but I know of no reason why it should not be done in Scotland. Surely, when we are having a comprehensive Bill of this kind, it would have been in the power of the Government to have made the measure still more comprehensive by putting the two registers as nearly as 1846 as possible on one footing. If it be said that the Parliamentary register would not include all that it is intended to bring within the scope of the Local Government register, then it would have been better to have had a supplemental register for Local Government than to have had a wholly distinct register, with different franchises and with different ways of dealing with the matter, and which can only lead to litigation, confusion, and expense. I say nothing about licensing. I do not think it is altogether to the advantage of those who desire that the licensing should be excluded from popular local control, that this step should have been taken, because the exclusion will only lead to further agitation upon the part of temperance reformers in Scotland for the constitution of separate Boards, dealing with liscenses on a separate basis from that of the general Boards. As regards the Parochial Boards, which is to be constituted partly of owners and partly of occupiers, I will say nothing more than has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Stirling Burghs, excepting this, that it does seem to me to be a rather retrograde step, when you have already, in the case of the County Councils, got over those scruples, not to put the Parochial Boards on the same basis as the County Councils. As to the provisions with regard to school fees, we recognize them as a step forward, and we thank the Lord Advocate for having gone so far. Then there is another proposition which seemed to me to be a curious one, that is the proposition as to capital expenditure and the appointment of a Joint Committee of Control of owners of property who are to bear the incidence of this capital expenditure and of the representatives of the ordinary electoral body in the country. Sir, what would be said in London if you proposed to control the operations of the County Council by constituting a Joint Committee representing partly the owners of property to control the capital expenditure? The Lord Advocate would say that the most, if not the whole of those rates fall upon the owners. Yes, but the rates levied in London on the occupiers, not in all cases, but in nine cases out of ten, come out of the rents in the long run. To me it seems that to prevent the per- 1847 sons who represent the Government of the country having control of the capital expenditure, is a very retrograde step. The proposals with regard to Private Bills are certainly a step forward. It is right that the inquiry should take place in Scotland, but I do think that many people will be disappointed that there is no proposition in this Bill for an extension of the Provisional Order system. I do not want the details of these Bills to be thrashed out in this House, nor will I be considered disrespectful when I say that there are not 20 per cent of the Members of this House who care, or will ever care, anything about Scotch Private Bills. The details of Private Bills could in three cases out of four be settled on the spot; and I do think it would have been very much better if the Lord Advocate had given some power of remitting Provisional Orders to a Commission sitting dow in Scotland, than to have observed a procedure which cannot be altogether satisfactory, and must lead to nearly as great expense as in the case under the present system, simply to perceive the nominal control which Parliament exercises over Private Bill legislation. I am perfectly certain before many years are over, we shall recognize in one form or another the principle of sending these Private Bills to Scotland to be dealt with by people who are more competent to consider them than we can be. Having said so much, I wish to join in what I am sure is the expression of satisfaction on this side of the House—though we shall have to enforce these points of criticism to the best of our ability—with the thorough-going and comprehensive set of Bills which we have before us. It will be our duty, in no spirit of carping criticism, to make amendments, but, at the same time to accept the Bills in an appreciative spirit as a good foundation to build upon.
§ MR. M. STEWART (Kirkcudbrightshire)
Everybody must agree that under the Bills a great advance will be made in popular government. They deal purely with Scotch questions, which they settle on Scotch lines; and they are based on the principle of extending representative and popular government in Scotland. There are one or two things, however, which I regret to find are not includeed in the scheme of 1848 the Government, and especially that the Licensing Question is left untouched. With regard to Private Bills, the most expensive part of the business will be dealt with in Scotland, where the present system is held up as a great grievance. Private proprietors who are anxious to benefit the districts in which they live often find their good intentions thwarted owing to the great expense which would be incurred in approaching Parliament. I am glad to think that the influence of the Parochial Boards will be strengthened rather than diminished. There has been a strong feeling among the people in favour of a reform of this kind, and one of the most satisfactory parts of the measure will be the proposal to assist the local rates from the probate duty. I could have wished that the Government had seen their way to continuing the name of Commissioners of Supply, which is so familiar and is held in general favour. The economy practised in the Scotch counties will contrast favourably with that in any county in the Kingdom, and my own county is at the head of the list. Seeing that the assessment only amounts to one penny in the pound, if it continues at that sum we are not likely to be worse off with a County Council than we have been with Commissioners of Supply. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his very explicit statement on this abstruse subject, and I would express a hope that the House will see its way to pass the Bills into law at an early day.
§ MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)
I do not propose to trouble the House at any length upon the numerous questions which arise from the clear and admirable statement of the Lord Advocate, but I wish to say a word or two upon a question in which I take a special interest—namely, the application of the Probate Duty in Scotland. I heartily rejoice that the Government have abandoned the proposal of last year as to the application of the duty. The proposal then was to allocate it to the relief of rates; but such an allocation would have given no relief to any class of people in Scotland. I, therefore, congratulate the Government upon having made up their minds to allocate it to the purpose of free education. There are, however, one or two points upon which 1849 I think the House would be glad to have more specific information. According to the financial statement of the right hon. Gentleman, the sum of about £171,000 will be allocated to the abolition of school fees, but the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman will fall short of the required amount by £130,000. I do not quite understand whether the Government contemplate the application of the money to the entire abolition of the school fees or to their reduction. The figures of the right hon. Gentleman are open to some criticism. The total sum from licences in Scotland is £323,000; and against that there are to be put the Imperial grants which are withdrawn, including £36,000 which is given to the roads, beyond what was given in 1876–7, and which creates an unfair distinction between the counties and the burghs. That sum I claim for free education. There is a sum of £30,000 to be given for the Highlands, but as the Government have not informed us how we are to spend the money, I can express no opinion upon it. I do not see why any special grant should be given to the Highlands. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the money should be kept in hand for nine months; we should then have a nest egg of £170,000 or £180,000, and if we abolished school fees in 1890 we should have that sum in hand to make up the difference between £240,000 and the sum required for the complete payment of school fees. That sum would be quite sufficient to make up the difference. If the House sees its way to provide without any fresh taxation for a period of four years, we should then be entitled to take into consideration the enormous improvement there would be in the average attendance of children in the schools, and the consequent increase which we should have from the Government grant, an improvement which, judging from the results of the abolition of school fees in foreign countries, I cannot put at less than 10 per cent. If that result were realized before four years have elapsed, we should be earning something like £50,000 a year more than the Government grant, and whatever hiatus there might be between the total of this grant and the total of the sum now represented by school fees would 1850 be so infinitesimal that it would not make any material addition to the rates. I trust that the Government having gone so far, in deference to the almost unanimous opinion of Scotland, will not in a niggardly spirit deal with the details, but will give as much money as may be necessary to avoid any addition to the School Board rate. I think the term "denominational schools" is unfortunate in its application to Scotland. In, Scotland all of our schools are denominational in this sense, that every school, whether Board school, Catholic school or Episcopalian school, teaches Christianity and the shorter Catechism. The distinction is not between denominational and undenominational schools, but between those managed and controlled by popular authority, and those managed and controlled by private individuals. The tendency of the School Boards so far has been to absorb the denominational schools, but another and more difficult matter has been the 63,000 children who are Catholics. I do not know if it would be satisfactory to those who belong to that religion, or what will be the view taken of the question by the people of Scotland; but bearing in mind the fact that all the Board schools are denominational schools in the sense of teaching religion, if the Catholics of Scotland are willing to put their schools under School Board control, it would not be unreasonable that some provision should be made, in a district where there is a sufficient number of Catholics to justify it, for the teaching of religion by Catholic teachers just as in other districts the Presbyterian religion is taught now by Presbyterian teachers. That, however, is merely a suggestion by the way. Whatever view may be taken upon the thorny question of religious education, I trust that on neither side of the House will anything be done to prevent the Government from carrying out their plan in whole or in part. Before I sit down I wish to say a word on the question of Private Bill legislation. Although there is a great deal to be said for the proposal which the Lord Advocate has put forward, I venture to say with the greatest possible respect for him and those who entertain his views that he is legislating in the wrong direction. If hon. Members will analyze the Private Bill legislation for Scotland 1851 they will find that about 75 per cent of it is railway legislation and only about 20 per cent. legislation by the towns, burghs, and other public authorities. I recognize the grievance under which corporations suffer under the present system, but the true direction in which reform ought to be sought is so to improve the general legislation, and so to increase the powers of municipalities and public authorities that the occasions will be rare on which it will be necessary to apply for any Private Bills whatever. I think it is a great mistake to encourage Private Bill legislation, which after all is the legislation of privilege, and I believe it is possible to avoid the necessity of applying to Parliament at all. With respect to the bearing of the scheme on the railway companies, I confess that I see no advantage in it either to them or to the public. It seems to me that the railway system of Scotland is so interwoven with the railway system of England that special legislation for Scotland would give no advantage, nor would it be economical. If, therefore, the companies think they would be better under the present system, I should be prepared to support their contention in that respect. It is a curious fact that the only part of the work of this House which, by universal consent, is done well—namely, the work in Committee upstairs—is the one which the Government are going to take away from the House of Commons and confer on a tribunal, small in number, which will be apt to fall into a narrow and professional groove.
§ *MR. J. B. BALFOUR (Clackmannan and Kinross)
Allow me to add my congratulations to those which have already been offered to the Lord Advocate upon the admirable clearness of the statement he has submitted, and also for the comprehensive spirit in which the Bills have been prepared. I do not think it would be appropriate, at this moment, to enter into a detailed criticism of the proposals which have been made. We shall see the Bills in the course of a few days and will then have an opportunity of considering the details more fully. There are points, of course, which will require grave consideration in the later stages of the Bills, but there are one or two matters to which reference has already been made upon which I should like to say one or two words. The first 1852 of these is in regard to the manner in which the contribution hitherto made from the county rate in Scotland—the assessment levied by the Commissioners of Supply on owners—ought to be dealt with, for I am not entirely satisfied that the ingenious method in which the Lord Advocate proposes to deal with it is altogether free from objection. The proposal of the right hon. Gentleman will, in my opinion, have to be carefully considered in order to prevent the stereotyping the present amount of that tax upon the land without having regard to the possible future increase in the value of the land. The proposal, as I understand, is to ascertain the present value of that tax—to leave it a permanent burden upon owners, but to divide any increase in the tax equally between owners and occupiers, thereby relieving land at the expense of labour. Another point is the proposal to keep the Commissioners of Supply in life for one or two purposes only, and to provide that all capital expenditure shall in future in counties be dealt with by a body consisting of a Standing Committee to be made up of seven County Councillors and seven Commissioners of Supply. That is a proposition to deal with capital expenditure in a very exceptional way. No doubt there is the precedent of the Roads and Bridges Act, for putting capital expenditure on a different footing from current expenditure, but, as far as I know, that is the only instance of such a thing—it stands alone. It is a very anomalous mode of treating these important matters to have separate tribunals for the purpose of dealing with capital expenditure as against expenditure which is not capital. There is another matter which it is proposed to hand over to the Joint Committee, and that is the control of the police. There, again, it appears to me that very careful consideration will be needed, because we know that the Burgh Councils have hitherto administered their police to the satisfaction of all concerned, and some very distinct cause must be shown why the County Councils should not have the like full power of managing their police. And now I come to the question of the service franchise, which in some parts of the country will prove a very important factor. Take, for instance, the case of the great mining communities, in which 1853 by far the larger proportion of the number of Parliamentary voters vote on the service franchise. Surely it would be unfortunate if they were to have no power of taking part in the election of County Councils. I hope the House will carefully consider this matter, for it does not seem to me to be at all clear that the Parliamentary franchise and the County Council franchise should not be the same. I will say nothing now with regard to the licensing question beyond that I am sure very many of us are exceedingly desirous that the question should be dealt with in some satisfactory way in these Bills, because undoubtedly there is no matter which is more closely connected with the daily life and well-being of a community than the licensing question. But I will say nothing about that, as we are told it is not to be comprehended in this Bill. There is, however, the point as to the Parochial Boards. It seems to me that there, again, it is exceedingly doubtful whether there can be any sufficient reason given for the restrictive franchise which is proposed. If I understood the right hon. Gentleman's statement aright, it was to the effect that, in order to give a qualification for a seat on the Parochial Board, a person must be an owner or an occupier of not less than £50 assessment.
§ *MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
In the ordinary case, one-half of the Board will be elected by owners. In those parishes in which the owners are so few in number that an election by owners would be inappropriate, the Board of Supervision will nominate that half of the Board, selecting owners, occupiers over £50, or other fit persons.
§ *MR. J. B. BALFOUR
This is certainly a very singular mode of electing such a body. In our School Board system in Scotland—a body which has certainly to perform very delicate functions, and to administer large funds—the members are elected on a perfectly free and open franchise. It seems to me, therefore, it will have to be carefully considered whether it would not be wise and just to give a franchise for the Parochial Boards similar to the School Board franchise—or, at any rate, to the County Council franchise. The School Board franchise is limited to £40 occupiers, and even now there is a strong feeling that that restriction 1854 should be removed. I am glad it is proposed to deal with the important subject of Private Bill legislation, and I hope that it is not proposed to interfere in any way with the Provisional Order system, under which local inquiries are now conducted satisfactorily at a cheap rate. I can assure the Lord Advocate and Her Majesty's Government that the Bills will receive fair and dispassionate consideration on this side of the House, and that there is every desire that they may pass into law with such Amendments as may be thought right.
§ *MR. D. CRAWFORD (Lanark, N.E.)
I may, I hope, join in the chorus of congratulation with which the House has received these Bills. Certainly, the right hon. Gentleman has introduced a very important subject, in a manner entirely worthy of himself, and in a manner which has made it very much more easy for us to understand and discuss them than it would have been if he had not displayed this great lucidity of exposition. Sir, my right hon. Friend said this was a subject which must be dealt with in a comprehensive manner. I am glad he has so accurately stated the principle on which Bills of this kind should proceed, and if I ventured to make any general criticism to make on the scheme which has been put before us, it would be that that principle has not been carried to its logical conclusion, and that we might have a still more simple and comprehensive plan if the right hon. Gentleman would only make a few alterations in his scheme. Sir, I think it is matter for great congratulation, in the first place, that the Government have adopted the principle which they have done in the election and constitution of the County Councils, and that in spite of any temptation to the contrary they have unreservedly adopted a popular franchise. I heartily congratulate them on taking a step from which beneficent consequences must flow. But, Sir, I complain that the principle and simplicity of the whole plan has not been followed out in all its details, and I would ask the House for a moment to look at the matter in this way. When we are talking about County Government, we refer chiefly to the spending of the rates which are raised in the counties. That is the chief business of 1855 county administration. Now, it is worth while for the House to bear in mind that the money which is administered by the Commissioners of Supply at present, and the administration of which it is proposed to transfer to the new County Councils, is really a very small portion of the money raised; and accordingly if we do no more than transfer to County Councils elected on a popular franchise the rates which the Commissioners of Supply now administer, and give the rest to other Boards elected on an imperfect franchise, we only carry out the system of County Government reform to a limited extent. I do not suppose that the rates which are administered by the Commissioners of Supply exceed more than 14 or 15 per cent. of the county rates, and therefore I am anxious that Government should consider whether it is not possible not only to embrace in their scheme the Commissioners of Supply, but also to apply the same franchise to the Parochial Boards by whom the greatest amount of money in the county is raised; and, further, to draw into their scheme the School Boards which raise and expend a considerable proportion of money. To pass to another point, there can surely be no reason for keeping up the Commissioners of Supply for special purposes in the way proposed by the Government for checking and taking part in capital expenditure by County Councils? I would suggest that that part of the Bill could be easily dropped; it is a part which it will prove exceedingly difficult to defend. Let us assume for a moment that the proposal is adopted, that the present amount of rates the owners pay should be stereotyped, and all future additions be divided—is not that sufficient security, without providing that the Commissioners of Supply should be joined with the County Council in matters of capital expenditure? If the capital expenditure involves an addition to the rates, it will fall equally on the owners and occupiers. And, again, the burghs have controlled and managed their police in so satisfactory a manner; surely that should encourage the Government to entrust the administration of the force to the County Councils. What the people of Scotland desire is not merely to popularize the constitution of one single body which administers only a 1856 small portion of the affairs of the county, but to reform the whole county constitution and system of administration from top to bottom, so that they may be put into harmony and form a symmetrical whole. County Councils, Parochial Boards, and District Committees should all stand on the same franchise, and be parts of a systematic and organic whole. Local administration requires three groups of bodies for parishes, districts, and counties; and as Parochial Boards and School Boards are recent creations, it would be easy to make any necessary change in their constitutions for the purpose of adapting them to a general scheme. There is much in the Bill that can be welcomed; but there are many important defects, which, however, may be easily remedied without marring in any degree the symmetry of the whole.
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
I wish to add my share to the congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman on the extremely clear way in which he explained the principles of his Bills, and on the manner in which he secured the interest of hon. Members on both sides for an hour and a half. I am not going to allude to any subject dealt with by other speakers; but I desire elucidation on one point. The principle of the English Bill was that the county franchise should be assimilated to the municipal franchise, and the Lord Advocate proposes, on the whole, to follow that principle; but he makes one somewhat essential departure from it in giving to the service franchise voter who has no vote in a borough the privilege of becoming a county voter under certain conditions. The important question arises whether the same privilege will be given to the service franchise voters in boroughs, and, if so, whether it will not follow that the lodgers in boroughs, a much more numerous and important class than the service franchise holder, must not also be put on the municipal list. If so, I shall appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board to know if he is prepared to copy in England the amended provisions of the Scotch measure? This raises a serious Constitutional question, and the House will be glad of an answer from both Ministers.
§ *MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith)
The very admirable speech—which was 1857 appreciated on this side of the House no less than on the other—of my right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate acquired additional interest not only from the indication it gave of the attitude of the Government towards the reform of local government in Scotland, but from the terse and luminous summary of the past history of local government in Scotland with which the right hon. Gentleman prefaced his remarks. As a Commissioner of Supply, I can only say that if I had any regret that my duties are deceased, it would be that I am so much better qualified to perform them than I ever was before. The Lord Advocate has spoken of the basis of his scheme as if it must be exceptionally Scotch. I hope he will follow up that admirable train of reasoning, and agree at a later stage to allow the Bills to be referred to a Committee of Scotch Members. I do not think that English Members who have to listen to the debates on these Bills are likely to be more interested in them than I was in the English Local Government Bill of last Session, and I believe a Committee of Scotch Members would be the natural outcome of the right hon. Gentleman's speech; indeed, with a little more attention paid to the sentiment of national feeling, I have no doubt we should soon see a great improvement in the conduct of Scotch affairs. As to the areas of local government mentioned in the Bill, so far as burghs are concerned, some of the smaller ones ought to be merged into the larger areas, because they have populations which, in many instances, can only be compared with that of Old Sarum. In one or two cases, such as the Hebrides, special provision must be made, because it would be unreasonable to expect representatives to go from the Hebrides to their county town. Commissioners of Supply have, no doubt, discharged their duties well; but, as they are going to disappear partially, it is a pity they do not disappear altogether. The purposes for which they are to survive will scarcely bear examination. There is no doubt that in some counties some means of safeguarding the finances and the efficiency of the police force might be found very desirable; and, if that be so, I think there might be some provision similar to that in the English Bill, restraining the County Councils 1858 from running into excessive debt. I do not, however, wish to go into details at this stage of the discussion. As to the officials which it is proposed to leave in the first County Council elected under the new franchise, I do not know that there is a great deal in that, but I think it may just as well be left out. If they are good men they will be returned on that account, and I think the right hon. Gentleman might have trusted to the common sense of the electors in the matter. It is not a necessary provision of the Bill, and it might arouse a certain amount of hostile popular feeling. But the really important point as to the election of the County Councils is the adoption of the service franchise. I understand the Lord Advocate wishes to encourage farm servants and others to take part in local affairs. No doubt we ought to exert every means in our power to secure the development of local self-government in Scotland, and to accustom people in the country districts to manage their own affairs. But I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Parochial Boards are really the only bodies on which farm servants and people in a small way of business can be expected to sit in order to take a part in county affairs; and if we desire to secure the good which may be derived from local government as an educational system, we ought to press for the widest possible extension of the franchise. What we really want is the Parliamentary franchise. The franchise should be the same for every kind of public body that is elected, either for imperial or for local purposes. There are many matters connected with the franchise which are of goeat interest; for example, there is the question whether women will be capable of sitting on the Scotch County Councils. I am sorry, Sir, that some means have not been taken for dealing with the licensing question. I had hoped that, either in this Bill or by some other Bill, the people of Scotland would have been given the control of their licensing system. Justices of the Peace might be equally well swept away in Scotland as the Commissioners of Supply. I, indeed, think it is absolutely necessary to find some other system by which the licensing system may be regulated. The only other specific point to which I wish to allude has reference to the School Boards. Now I am exceedingly sorry 1859 the right hon. Gentleman has not seen his way to merge some of these Boards. The present system of small School Boards is extremely unsatisfactory. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the disadvantages of continual elections, but if he had seen his way to merge these Boards he would have done away with the necessity of multiplied elections, and simplified matters considerably. I do not think it would have been a very great chapter to have undertaken. The cumulative vote is not one that is appreciated in Scotland, and one which will have to go before long in any case. I am delighted that, upon the educational question, the Lord Advocate has, to a limited extent, declared himself virtually to be in favour of free education. I hope that, in many ways, the system of Private Bill legislation, to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has referred, will remain as complete as possible. We cannot give too much local power in dealing with purely Private Bills, because there is no matter in which the people of Scotland are more interested, in which they stimulate the zeal of their Representatives more keenly, than the nuisance and ruinous expense of Private Bill legislation. In conclusion, I have only to say that we, on this side of the House, will give the most loyal support to the right hon. and learned Gentleman in the conduct of his Bill.
§ *MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)
I desire, as the Representative of a large county constituency, which is deeply interested in this Bill, to express my great satisfaction with the general lines on which the Bill is drawn. It is, indeed, a great satisfaction to us that the Lord Advocate has exceeded our expectations in respect to the reform of local government in Scotland. It is quite clear, from the statement of the Lord Advocate, that he will have in the conduct of the Bill through the House the general assistance of Scotch Members, no matter in what quarter of the House they sit. It has been my fortune to have a good deal to do with municipal government as well as county government, and I must express my regret that the system of administering the police, which has worked so well in the large centres of population, has not been carried in its entirety into this Bill. The Lord Advo- 1860 cate cannot hide from himself the fact that there is in all parts of the House satisfaction with this Bill, except upon those points in regard to which he has pursued what he himself calls a half-and-half policy. Why should he be afraid to trust the police to the County Council? In such centres as Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, and Aberdeen the administration of the police has been in the hands of the Councils, and it is impossible for him to say that it has been otherwise than entirely satisfactory. He has been a little halting in his trust of the people. If the Conveners whom he wishes to preserve have been popular Conveners, and have shown administrative ability, why is he afraid they will not be popularly elected in the case of the new Boards? I hope the Lord Advocate will reconsider the points in; which he has admitted he is pursuing a-half-and-half policy, and that he will still further extend the popularity of this great measure by doing away with its manifest defects. I cannot see why the right hon. and learned Gentleman should be afraid to trust the County Councils with the administration of free education. Nothing is more deprecated in Scotland than the commitment of any administrative work to permanent officials. The Board of Supervision in Scotland is merely a permanent official. It is not a Board, however well it has acted, that is at all appreciated as a popular Board. Its interference with small local bodies is probably necessary, but when we come to deal with such large bodies as County Councils I see no reason why the Lord Advocate should be halting in his policy and retain certain powers for the permanent officials of the Education Department. The Bill will be keenly discussed in Scotland during the Easter Recess, and I hope the Lord Advocate will, at least, keep an open mind on the points in dispute, and join with hon. Members upon the Opposition Benches in the desire that the Bill should be made satisfactory to the whole of Scotland, and a measure which shall be of a popular character, and settle the question of county government without amendment for many years to come. I trust he will not cling too tightly to any preconceived notions on what are called the minor parts of the Bill. We look with jealousy upon the question of 1861 proprietors retaining a certain share of power. There is no doubt whatever that taxation falls in the main upon the industrial classes and those who make a profit out of the land. As a general principle, it is very fair that, on the whole, taxation should be divided between proprietor and tenant. But in making that fair division, as he intends to do, in all future transactions, it will be found that there will be no injustice done to proprietors if the increase of taxation falls equally upon both, and if he gives the administration to the electors. I am glad to think that, as far as possible, there is to be one collection of taxation, and I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will see his way to make one register. If we had one register for both Parliamentary and local elections, and one collection for both Imperial and local taxes, we should make a great saving in the country, and render local administration far more effective. I agree with the criticisms as well as with the commendations of the Bill from this side of the House, and I assure the Lord Advocate he may reckon upon my humble assistance to make this measure worthy of his acknowledged ability.
§ MR. W. SINCLAIR (Falkirk)
I desire to congratulate the Lord Advocate on the very lucid and able speech in which he has introduced the Bill. The people of Scotland will be glad to know that they are not to have Aldermen inflicted upon them. The proposal of District Committees of the Council rather than District Councils themselves will, I think, be found to be a very admirable suggestion, and one that will be acceptable to the people of Scotland. Another valuable suggestion is that of Joint Committees of different Councils, who can meet to discuss questions of common interest. I should like to ask the Lord Advocate when the Bills will be printed and delivered to Members, and whether there will be a sufficient number of copies at our disposal to enable us to send the Bills to those of our constituents who take an active interest in the questions?
*DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College Div.)
I must congratulate the Lord Advocate not only upon the lucidity of his statement, but upon the extraordinary conversion of the Conservative Party to ultra-Radicalism which has 1862 enabled him to make his statement. I cannot help thinking that the conversion has some connection with the notice in favour of Home Rule for Scotland which the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark) has on the Paper for to-morrow, and the support that motion has received in Scotland. Certainly, I think the Bill, with a little cutting and carving, will make a first-class Radical measure; and even though it may not be so cut and carved in passing through the House now, it certainly will be when the other side come into power. I must especially congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon the conversion of his Party to free education. When I, eight or ten years ago, brought forward a Bill on the subject, it was looked upon as a ridiculous "fad," utterly detrimental to, and subversive of, our best educational interests. I think there is very little to be said on behalf of the proposal to refer matters affecting capital expenditure to a Joint Committee, consisting of seven County Councillors and seven Commissioners of Supply, with the Sheriff presiding, but there is not the shadow of an excuse for entrusting such a hybrid body with the management of the police. There is not the smallest excuse for not following the precedent of the Municipal Councils in this particular. It would have made the Bill more symmetrical and accordant with the practice in Town Councils if the Bill had provided for the election of bailies by the County Councils, to whom the judicial functions of Justices of the Peace could have been handed over, as they are in burghs. The proposal of the right hon. Gentleman to leaven the District Committees with two members of the Parochial Board is most vicious; but I approve of the consolidation of rates, and trust the system will be imitated in, burghs. It would be as well if the Lord Advocate were to follow the practice pursued in London a little further and make the collection of rates by quarterly instalments. Let me call attention to the fact that it is rather a dangerous omen for the introduction of a Bill to be received with universal approbation, because the expectations excited throughout the country may not be realized when the provisions of the Bill are definitely known. It is as well to warn the Lord Advocate that on the question 1863 of denominational education he may not find it all plain sailing. There is a third Bill the Lord Advocate seeks to introduce—the Parochial Boards Bill. That, undoubtedly, is a purely retrograde measure so far as the large towns are concerned. For years past I myself have introduced a Bill on the subject which I consider to be much simpler, and which I venture to say is likely to become law sooner than that introduced by the Lord Advocate. In great towns there exists to a certain extent a representative element in Parochial Boards, elected by owners and occupiers jointly, and as the latter greatly outnumber the former, the Board is elected on a sound though complex basis. The right hon. Gentleman proposes to subvert all that by dividing the electors into two classes, and allowing each class to elect half the Parochial Board. I believe that when this comes to be understood in towns there will be such an amount of opposition as will prevent the Bill becoming law. In certain counties the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman may be an improvement on the absurd existing constitution of Parochial Boards, but the proposal to place the election of half the Members of these Boards in the hands of the Board of Supervision is absolutely preposterous. There are on that Board half-a dozen Sheriffs, who sit on it ex officio. It has no representative character; it is not responsible to Parliament, and complaints have again and again been levelled against it. With regard to the Private Bill portion of the scheme, I have only one observation to make. When, a couple of years ago, a Bill was passed through this House—I think it was the Criminal Procedure Bill—there were some clauses in it devoted to a re-arrangement and increase of the salaries of Judges of the Court of Session, and the then Lord Advocate, in explaining the provisions of that Bill, told us in connection with this proposal that he had in view for purposes of Private Bill legislation the imposition of additional duties on these Judges, and pay, therefore, was given in consideration of these prospective additional duties. I trust, therefore, that in bringing forward this Bill which throws upon them this additional duty, the Government will remember that the Judges have already been paid, by anticipation, and that we shall not have 1864 financial clauses asking for further increase of their salary on this account.
§ *MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
I think it is now desirable that I should refer to some of the points raised, and in doing so let me return my sincere thanks for the more than courtesy with which I have been treated in my duty of submitting the Government proposals, and the conciliatory spirit in which those proposals have been received by all who have spoken. I will touch upon the several points that seem to demand an answer now, and, seeing the hon. Member for South Edinburgh in his place I will refer first to the service franchise, which he made subject of remark. I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. J. B. Balfour) is not present, because he could have furnished some information of an interesting kind. The right hon. Gentleman asks me as to the state of the law in reference to service franchise voters in Municipal Elections, and I have to say the existing law is doubtful in this sense—that in certain towns the service franchise people are de facto on the register in most of the large towns; but in some—I may mention, for instance, Dunfermline—they are not, owing to the legal opinion expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Clackmannan, that they are not entitled to be on the municipal register. Indirectly we may clear up the law on this point by keeping on all those who are on the register and putting on those who are not on, but are otherwise qualified for the municipal register. The right hon. Gentleman follows up his question by asking what we propose to do in regard to burghs as regards the roll, and I say we propose the same terms as in counties. These terms, let me say—and I answer the hon. Member for Haddington (Mr. Haldane)—are:—We desire to enable service franchise holders to come on the County Council roll, and they can do so by giving notice of their desire to contribute to the County Council rates. In doing so they will be entered on the register. Then I am asked whether we propose to open up another vista, as to which my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Bill will answer for himself at the right time, but I may say now that we do not propose that in these elections 1865 lodgers should exercise a vote. I am asked how we justify the control of the capital expenditure in counties, while in burghs there is no such control. The first and most obvious answer is that in burghs occupiers are rated equally with owners. The functions of the District Committee will relate to roads and public highways; but possibly, if experience should justify it, other functions may be added. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. J. B. Balfour) said he hoped our proposals upon Private Bill legislation would not do away with the beneficial system of local inquiry which takes place when Provisional Orders are being obtained. We do not interfere with these inquiries unless, and until, a Provisional Order comes as a Bill before Parliament. Various remonstrances have been addressed to the Government on account of some of the claims, and which are apparently likely to lead to discussion, and, as I do not wish now to enter upon controversial argument, I will not refer to them except as to one point raised by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Esslemont). The hon. Member, taking an interest in the subject which is well known, has stated a claim for part of the money which at present is proposed should be devoted to other purposes than education, £36,000 for Roads, and £30,000 for the Highlands. On this point, if the hon. Gentleman will wait until he can see the provisions, I think he will see that the arrangements are more or less of a complicated character not to be entered upon piece-meal, and when we have not the means of full discussion before us. Lastly, I am asked a much simpler question when the Bill will be in the hands of Members? On that I can only say that I do not anticipate any long delay, and hope it will be ready during this week.
§ *MR. C. S. PARKER (Perth)
There are one or two questions I should like to put to the Lord Advocate. I am sure it must be his desire that the country should have the opportunity as soon as possible of understanding not only the broad principles but the working of his proposals, and though I join with every other hon. Member who has spoken in congratulating him on the extreme clearness and lucidity of the account he gave us of them, it was, of course, as a 1866 question merely of time, impossible within the period at his disposal to make clear everything about these four Bills. I desire information first as to the Private Bill legislation, and next as to the school fees. I assume that the Commission is intended to supersede the Committees of both Houses of Parliament. But will there remain possible any such appeal as at present exists from one House to the other on the details of Bills? It seems to me that some appeal might very well remain in the event of parties not being satisfied with the decision of the tribunal, but I should be glad to know whether that is the view of the Government. If there is to be anything like an effective appeal this can only be provided by the House still occasionally appointing a strong Committee to review clauses, instead of the whole House dealing with them. A strong Committee would be more easily appointed under the new system because the House will be relieved of much ordinary Committee work. I should like to know also whether it is contemplated that the Judge who is to form part of the tribunal shall give the whole of his time. The other question on which I should like a little more information is a totally different one, namely, as to school fees. Will all that is proposed appear in the Bills which are going before the country during the Easter Recess? I presume there is no intention to compulsorily abolish fees, either in Board or other schools. But how is it proposed to apportion the relief from fees among the different schools? There is the embarrassing denominational question. I do not think that the people of Scotland, though they are mostly Protestant, will support such utterances as we have heard lately in public about making an absolute stand against giving their fair share of such relief to Catholic schools. The large Protestant majority would not be so unjust as to say, "We will take this probate duty to remit fees in our Protestant schools, but we will let none of it be given to the Catholics; we will drive them into the Board Schools, however contrary that may be to their religious principles." Again, there was a plan put before the public lately by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain)—who proposed to ascertain what 1867 amount of fees at present is being paid at the several schools, or classes of schools, and to distribute the amount of money to be given in exactly the same proportion. That would be exceedingly unfair in its operation, and more so in Scotland than in England. In Glasgow there are Board Schools—take the case of Garnett Hill School for example—where the education is so high that parents whose children might go to the Academies send them to these schools, to prepare more cheaply for the University, and for the Indian Civil Service and other examinations. On Mr. Chamberlain's principle, these schools would receive a much larger share than the Catholic schools and others where the poorest children go, which would be very unfair. I should be glad to know whether, in the first place, the grant will go to pay the fees of those poor children whose parents at present have to apply to the Parochial Boards. In that way some relief would be given to the general ratepayer as well as to the parents. That would be equitable; and, next to that, the fees to be provided might go for those in the lower standards, which would include most of the poorest. Lastly, passing to another subject, I think there is considerable force in what was said by the hon. Member for the College Division with respect to the additional functions which it is proposed to assign to the Board of Supervision. That Board, and as it is Dot a representative body, as the hon. Member said, is not represented in this House—at any rate, it is only represented in the way that the Prisons Board or any other Department in Scotland is represented; that is to say, when the Secretary for Scotland is in the other House, we can only regard them as represented by the Lord Advocate. But, considering the composition of the Board of Supervision, I do think it unwise to throw on them in this Bill the additional function of determining the number of members to sit on the Parochial Boards, or, still more, such a function as to determine, in parishes where the owners are few, which of the occupiers shall sit on the Board in the interest of the owners. If that is done at all, I should like to know whether it is proposed that it should be done subject to some active control by the Secretary for Scotland.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
I join in what has been said as to the clear statement of the Lord Advocate; but while his statement of the Bill has been in every respect clear, at the same time there are points on which a considerable amount of difference of opinion will exist in Scotland. The majority of the people of Scotland belong to the Liberal Party, and necessarily they will look at this Bill from a Liberal point of view. Now, one of the points I was very sorry to see the Lord Advocate did not go in for was the Parochial Boards being entirely elective bodies. He seems in some way to mistrust the ratepayers as a body, and to insist on one-half of the Board being elected by the owners and the other half by the occupiers. Now, I do not think there is any reason for distrusting the ratepayers in the matter of the Parochial Boards. As has been already pointed out, the School Boards are elected by the ratepayers without distinction of class, and the School Board members who have been elected have belonged generally to what might be termed the owners' class. Although you have representation without distinction of class, yet, in point of fact, when the ratepayers elect representatives, they elect those who have time to devote to the work, and who have also shown capacity for the management of local affairs, and there has been no occasion whatever for treating with the slightest distrust Members who have been elected by the ordinary ratepayers. Take, for instance, the case of Parochial Boards. It is a mistake to suppose that the ratepayers' members are more likely to be lavish than the owners' members. On the contrary, all experience shows that the ratepayers' members would be more on the side of economy than even the owners' representatives; and it must also be recollected that if you are to have owners' representatives you will have distinctions on the Board which ought not to exist. You would be apt to have the Board divided half on one side and half on the other according as their individual interests might arise. I venture to say that in Scotland there will be a unanimous condemnation of the principle of class membership of Parochial Boards. There is no ground whatever for introducing so much class principle. 1869 As regards the management of counties there can be no doubt that it may be necessary to resort to what we may term District Councils. It is evident that under the Bill the Members of these Councils as well as of the County Councils will principally belong to the owner class. Experience has shown in connection with the Road Trustees that where you have representatives of the Commissioners of Supply and representatives of ratepayers, the representatives of the ratepayers are not able to attend, and that the work devolves upon the Commissioners of Supply. The District Councils in the Counties will, practically, therefore, be managed by the owner class. That being so, I think it is a pity that the Lord Advocate should have introduced a distinction between capital outlay and ordinary maintenance, and I do not think it will be necessary to take any measures to protect the interests of the landowners. If such measures are adopted they will, I think, give rise to a great amount of friction. The system of introducing into the District Councils members from the Parochial Boards is practically introducing the system of Aldermen. A man from a Parochial Board will have the same status as one elected by thousands of ratepayers, which will militate against the honour of his position on the District Council. Besides, men will seek the portal of the Parochial Board as an entrance to the Council to save the trouble and expense of an election, and in that way the prestige of the Council will be injured. With respect to the grants for free education, there is in Scotland a greater reason for taking such a step than in England, as the compulsory age is 14, and the standard to be reached is the fifth, whereas in England the age for leaving is one year earlier and the compulsory standard to be attained is only the fourth, so that Scotch parents are deprived for one year more than English of their children's earnings. This loss will amount to £10, averaging the earnings at 4s. a week, whereas the relief which will be received on school fees at an average of 13s. a year for six years will only be £5. With regard to making education free, I venture to say that it should only be free up to Standard V.—the compulsory standard. It should not go beyond that, and it should be based on a reasonable amount 1870 of school fees. That would be found to be, perhaps, about 10s. per child in average attendance, or perhaps less, and the principle on which the Government should proceed in giving the allocation to denominational schools as well as the School Board schools should be to fix on a certain amount per child in average attendance as given out of the local rates in respect of there being no school fees exacted. With regard to those who object to the denominational schools, such as those of the Roman Catholics, getting grants in respect of the abolition of school fees, it is a mistake to suppose that those schools do not relieve the ratepayers of an enormous amount of expense, the fact being that if they were to be shut up a very heavy additional burden would fall on the local taxpayers, who would be called on to provide a largely increased number of school buildings. The ratepayers have a considerable interest in the question whether every child should be driven into the Board Schools—that interest lying in the other direction, namely, that as far as possible the children should be educated out of the Board Schools and so effect a saving in the rates. Moreover, it cannot be contended that when it is making education compulsory the State has a right to dictate the kind of religious instruction the children ought to receive. It is sufficient if the children are able to undergo an examination showing that they can comply with the particular standards they are in; but on the question whether religious education should be given in the denominational or the Board Schools the State can have no claim to interfere. There can be no right of any such interference founded on any principle of justice. With regard to the proposals made in reference to Private Bill legislation, I am not quite sure how far the system intended by the Bill would prove of advantage. It seems to me that it would simply amount to this, that you will have the Counsel in Scotland nstead of keeping us under the Counse in England, and that it is very much a question of whether the Edinburgh lawyers are anxious to appear before the Commissioners in reference to these local Bills. We have had some experience of commissions in Scotland, among them being the recent Commission on the Boundaries Bill; and with regard to that particular 1871 Commission, I venture to say, that if the inquiry had been held in London it would have been much cheaper than it was, the fees then paid to counsel being much larger than the fees paid to counsel before Committees upstairs. Another objection to this scheme for dealing with Private Bills is that the proposal to remit the consideration of legislative enactments to Commissioners is a somewhat serious innovation on long established usage, and that in making it you will be giving rise to a practice of acting upon precedents, whereas what we expect when a Bill is brought before Parliament is that we should have the advantage of the enlightened consideration which Members of Parliament are willing to give to matters of legislation. This, however, will be set aside by the Commissioners, who will not act on the liberal and advanced notions which prevail here, but will, in the main, confine themselves to considerations founded on prescription and precedent. I think, therefore, it would be detrimental to the due progress of legislation to have our Bills judged by Commissioners, instead of, as heretofore, by those who represent the interests of the people. If there is to be a body sitting in Scotland to deal with questions of Private Bill legislation, I venture to say that it ought to be a Committee of Members of the Houses of Lords and Commons, appointed by the Committee of Selection, for in that way we should have our political interests specially represented in all matters affecting our Private Bill legislation. We should thus have so many Members of the House of Commons, and so many of the House of Lords, specially selected for the purpose, sitting as a joint Committee, hearing the evidence and arguments for and against the Bills, and judging on the principles which guide the Committees sitting upstairs. This, I maintain, would be a more workable system, and would be more likely to command the confidence of the parties concerned than the plan now proposed of dealing with these matters by Commission, because when the Bills deliberated upon by the Commissioners come up to this House there will necessarily be a considerable amount of discussion and wire-pulling, with the view of overbearing the decisions arrived at on points upon which Members of this House will differ from the Commis- 1872 sioners as to matters of fact or questions of expediency. These are the only observations I feel it necessary to make at this stage of the Bill. There is no doubt that it is a considerable improvement on what has hitherto been the practice in Scotland; but it is evident that a great deal more will have to be done in order to make it thoroughly satisfactory to the Scottish people. At present we cannot expect more than the mere skeleton of a measure; but it is to be hoped that in the course of time, as the County Councils get developed, we may be able to acquire much larger powers than are now suggested, combining, at the same time, efficiency with economy. There seems to me to be no reason why the County Councils should not ultimately have the revision of the Local Boards over each county, and so get rid of a considerable amount of difficulty such as has hitherto occurred. I simply point out these matters as requiring to be dealt with at some future time, and I complain that they have not been introduced into the present Bill. In conclusion, I will only add that I think the Lord Advocate has introduced a Bill which is, upon the whole, a great advance on the existing state of things, and that, in what I have said I have only indicated what I should regard as an improvement of the measure.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy)
I think we all join in the congratulations that have been offered to the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate on the manner in which he has introduced the Measure now before the House, although I must confess that, while listening to his impressive periods, I felt somewhat disappointed at finding that the Bill, had not a larger scope. At any rate there are many on this side of the House who will agree with me in saying it is not so large a Measure as we had hoped. It is, I think, to be regretted that the Bill does not touch on matters with which it might well have dealt. For instance, it does not in any degree deal with what I may call the province of home rule or central rule in Scotland; and, further, I may say that in my opinion there is nothing in the Bill that will tend in any way to relieve the congestion of business in the British Parliament, although I hope it may bring about a considerable improvement in regard to Legislation in Scotland. It 1873 seems to me that one of the main principles of the Bill is to deprive the parishes of the little administrative power they now possess; though in this respect it is a somewhat smaller measure than the English Act. I think we might have had apian which would have given us larger areas in which the burghs of the counties might have been united for some purposes, and I cannot but regret that no attempt has been made in the Bill to group together some of the smaller areas, such, for example, as the counties of Kinross and Clackmannan, for the purposes of the Bill. When the Lord Advocate came to speak of the unit of administration, I was in hopes he was going to make the parish the unit of administration; and what I find is done in the English Bill is to take away from the parish what little administration it possessed, under the head of sanitation, and to leave it simply an organization for the relief of the poor. It is my impression that for the administration of the smaller rural areas what is wanted is something in the nature of the village communes on the Continent, such as are to be found in France and Russia, and also in India. As regards the District Councils they are to be mere delegations from the County Councils. Let me say one word about Local Government finance, as explained in this Bill. I will not enter into the question of the so-called decentralization of finance, and the localization of taxes, but my opinion is that in Scotland, where some counties are rich and others poor, the expenses will be thrown on large and poor areas, while some of the richer counties will gain. As regards the aiding of local taxation Scotland gets only £171,000 out of the whole amount in aid of local taxation which has been given to the United Kingdom, and I think Scotland has not been treated very fairly. As regards the application of that sum, such as it is, I am one of those who have always been very strongly in favour of free education, and I rejoice to hear that in that direction Her Majesty's Government mean to make some use of this money. At the same time I fear they will find rocks ahead in the shape of this voluntary question, which is a very difficult one indeed to deal with. I was rather surprised to hear of our Parochial 1874 schools being regarded as denominational schools. In one sense they are, but the managers have the Conscience Clause, and I hope hon. Members will see no danger in the Shorter Catechism. I was taught the Shorter Catechism in my youth, and anything more appropriate to use I cannot conceive. I believe in Scotland we are rapidly becoming free from religious bigotry, and that we are approaching the time when we shall be able to supply secular teaching, leaving religious education to those whom it concerns. My feeling is this, that if people who have denominational crotchets choose to set up schools alongside the Board School, let them pay for them. Now as regards the Aldermen. The Lord Advocate said that we have no Aldermen in Scotland, but I beg to assure him that Aldermen are an ancient institution in that country. I find that there was an Alderman at the head of the burgh of Cupar several hundreds of years ago. However, the Aldermen in English counties have turned out such a failure, that I am very glad they are omitted. At the same time, I should have been very glad had the Government proposed County Bailies, who perform excellent functions, and are magistrates. I should have been very glad if the people of the counties, as in the burghs, could have elected their own magistrates. As to the Service Vote, I entirely agree with what was said in reference to it by the hon. Member for Haddington. I altogether object to the proposals of the Government with regard to the Service Vote. The Government ought either to give this Service Vote or to refuse it. It seems to me that practically the Service voter has to pay the rate. He is in the same position as a compound householder. He has his house as part remuneration, and if the landlord pays the rates, it has to be accounted for by the service holder. I hope very much that Her Majesty's Government will admit the service holders to the vote. The service holder in Scotland is a most excellent and generally a most useful man. I know a gardener who is a service holder, and who is also Chairman of the local School Board, the laird, a most excellent member of the Board, being under him. I do hope that this most useful class of men will be brought into this scheme of the Government. As regards the whole 1875 question of registration, I quite agree I that there should be a coincidence between the county and the burgh register, that is to say, the county register should be based on the burgh register, and every county voter should be allowed to vote for the burgh; and you should have a supplementary list for women, if women are to be in County Councils, though I hope we shall not have them anywhere else. As to Private Bill legislation, I am very glad that Her Majesty's Government propose to make an experiment, though I am not prepared to say how far I think that experiment will be a success. I hope we shall come to what we have in some of the States of America, where distinct rules are laid down by law as to how and under what circumstances a railway may or may not be made. It would be an exceedingly difficult thing for any body of a judicial character to decide such a question as that raised the other day in reference to the Highland Railway and the railway to the West Coast of Scotland. One part of the proposal seems to mean excellent one—namely, that local Bills should be submitted to the opinion of the County Council; for instance, as to whether a railway was desirable or not. There might be some difficulty in respect of the Bills of burghs being reviewed by the County Council. As regards Railway Bills, however, I think the proposal to submit them to the opinion of a popular body is a most excellent one. I shall not detain the House longer.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to Amend the laws relating to Local Government in Scotland.
I wish to ask the Lord Advocate whether the results of the revision arrived at after considerable expense by the Glasgow Boundaries Commission a couple of years ago, are proposed to be revised by the Boundary Commission?
§ *MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
The Boundary Commission, under this Bill, will be confined to the rectification of the frontiers between burghs and counties or counties and counties. The case to which the hon. Gentleman refers does not come under that class at all.
§ *MR. C. S. PARKER (Perth)
At what stage will the learned Lord be 1876 able to give us any further information about the scheme of school fees?
§ *MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
I doubt whether I am in order in answering the several interrogatories of the hon. Member; but, if it is permissible, I will answer them categorically. When a Bill is sent from one House to the other, we do not prevent the appointment by the Second House, so to speak, of a Select Committee. That is for the consideration of the House itself. The second point is that as to whether the Judge will give his whole time? Certainly he will during the progress of the inquiry, but that would not mean for the whole year. Would the Government abolish all fees? Certainly not. As to the portion of the fees to which the hon. Member referred, it is necessarily a matter, more or less, of detail. I do not know that I can say anything more useful than that our general object will be somewhat in accordance with the views of the hon. Gentleman.
§ *MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen)
If in order, I would ask the Lord Advocate to what extent he means to relieve school fees in Scotland?
§ *MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
That is not a matter which can be properly entered into at this stage. I would beg the hon. Member to observe that this is a matter which involves a considerable amount of detail in the practical working out of the methods. I think I have sufficiently indicated the principle on which the Government propose to act, and if the hon. Gentleman will reserve his judgment, I am certain he will have abundant opportunity of expressing his views.
§ *MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
They are not ready for issue, but I do not think they will be long delayed. As I have said to an hon. Gentleman before, I hope they will be out before the end of the week.
§ Motion agreed to.
That leave he granted to bring in a Bill to make supplementary provisions for amending the laws relating to Local Goverment in Scotland.
§ Agreed to.1877
That leave be granted to bring in a Bill to amend the laws relating to the election of Parochial Boards in Scotland.
That leave be granted to bring in a Bill to amend the procedure in regard to private Bills relating to Scotland.
§ *MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh)
I do not think hon. Members quite understand from the answer which the Lord Advocate gave just now, whether after an inquiry into a Bill in Scotland under the authority of one House, it might then be referred by the other House to a Select Committee.
§ *MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
No, Sir. The object of the Bill is really this, that there shall be a local inquiry by a Commission. That will be accepted probably by the House which has directed the inquiry as to existing facts. At the same time, that is not a matter on which it could with propriety control the action of the other House, and consequently that should be left to the judgment of the House which comes second in order.
§ The Motion was agreed to.