HC Deb 24 July 1889 vol 338 cc1181-200

Order for further consideration of Bill, as amended, read.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

I have an Amendment to move in Clause 118, with the view of making it quite clear that no claim for compensation shall be raised under that clause, and that only existing officers who are entitled under their engagement to compensation shall get it. I wish to remove all doubt on that matter, and I accordingly propose the insertion after the word "officer," of the words "who is otherwise entitled to compensation." If the Lord Advocate objects to the words of the Amendment, perhaps he will accept the words he has used himself in Clause 117— namely, such compensation "as he would be entitled to under his former engagement." I cannot say that upon these matters I am altogether prepared to accept the dictum of the Lord Advocate. My experience of previous Lord Advocates would scarcely justify me in doing so. I remember a case in which the Lord Advocate took a different view from that of the Scotch Members generally; but the Court of Quarter Session supported our view. All I want is to make assurance doubly sure that compensation will not be given to those whom it is not intended to compensate.

Amendment proposed, in page 18, line 30, after the word "officer," to insert the words "who is otherwise entitled to compensation."—(Dr. Clark.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


I hope the Government will accept this very reasonable Amendment, which makes the same provision in regard to compensation as that contained in the English Act, and which has already been inserted by the Government in a previous clause.


I should like to make it clear what the object of the clause is. By Clause 117 we have dealt with the case of the abolition of any existing office, and provided that the holder of it shall be entitled to similar compensation under this Act to that to which he would have been entitled under his former engagement. But there is another class of cases dealt with under Clause 118. The change which the Bill effects is, undoubtedly, a large one, and no doubt there will be a certain amount of re-adjustment of work under it, attended probably with a certain economy. I think it is, therefore, fair that the County Council shall have the right to determine whether compensation to a larger or smaller extent shall be given to persons who are de facto disturbed in their offices by modifications or changes in those offices. There is not, I believe, the smallest danger of exaggerated claims to compensation being conceded under the clause. The people who are made the arbiters are the authors of the changes— namely, the County Council.


With no right of appeal.


Does the hon. Gentleman think there would be any advantage in giving a right of appeal to the Treasury? The conditions laid down under which the County Council will be entitled to give compensation are exceedingly stringent; and, under all the circumstances, I think it is right that the County Council should have the power which this clause gives them.

MR. CALDWELL) (Glasgow, St. Rollox

The previous clause provides that in the case of an abolition of office no compensation shall be given unless the holder of the office is entitled, under his original engagement, to compensation. This clause, however, does not deal with offices which are abolished, but simply with offices which are disturbed. The curious part of the matter is that having provided that a man whose office is totally abolished shall not be entitled to compensation, we are now asked to provide that a man who has only sustained a partial loss of office shall be compensated.

The House divided:—Ayes 63; Noes 85.—(Div. List, No. 252.)


I have now to move that the Bill be re-committed in respect of a new clause (County Council to have power to take land) and an Amendment to Clause 16. The Amendment to Clause 16, which refers to roads and bridges, is purely formal. The new clause which I have placed on the Paper has reference to the provision of allotments of land for the labouring classes, and is founded on the English Act. It is obviously a subject which has a certain amount of detail connected with it, and if the House is prepared to accept the proposal very much as it stands, I am prepared to proceed with it; but Amendments have been placed on the Paper, and I am afraid that at this period it would be impossible to discuss in detail all the various points which may be raised. Therefore, unless hon. Members are willing substantially to accede to the clause, it will be hopeless to proceed with the matter at the present stage.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be re-committed in respect of an Amendment to Clause 16 and in respect of a new Clause (County Council to have power to take land.")—(The Lord Advocate.)

SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derbyshire, Ilkeston)

I am very glad the Government are willing to extend to Scotland some provision in the nature of allotments, because I think it would do a great deal to improve the position of the poorer peasantry of that country. But I am sorry to say that the experience in England since the passing of the Allotments Act of 1887 is not very encouraging. The Act in England has not been a benefit, for it has failed to work, and has caused grievous disappointment among the poorer classes in the agricultural districts. There have only been two instances in which the Local Authorities have asked the Local Government Board to put the compulsory powers of the Act in motion. Sanitary Authorities all over England have seen that the clauses of the Act are so cumbrous and work so expensively that it is impossible to purchase land compulsorily at such a price as to make it worth while for the agricultural labourer to take the land and till it. The compulsory clauses have failed, and the other method— that of purchasing the land by agreement—has not been any more successful. It may surprise the House to learn that throughout the length and breadth of England there have been only five cases in which loans of money for the purchase of land by agreement have occurred. The result of these five cases is that £8,100 have been advanced with the magnificent result of purchasing some 89 acres of land. That is at the rate of over £90 an acre, and it is impossible to buy land at that rate and let the agricultural labourer have it at a price likely to give him a fair profit. Perhaps I may be allowed to mention an instance which occurred at Croydon.


Order, order! I do not think the hon. Member is entitled, upon this Motion, to go into details, as he is now doing, in regard to the working of the Allotments Act in England.


I bow to the ruling of the Chair, and I will limit myself to warning the Scottish Members that the working of these clauses will not be satisfactory. I have shown that in other cases these clauses have not worked well. The argument that they would be likely to induce landowners to offer land for the purpose of allotment is not a justifiable one. If there is a disposition on the part of landlords to offer their land, it is not so much due to the Act as to the fact that the demand for allotments on the part of the labouring poor is steadily growing, and landowners with charitable instincts are endeavouring all over the country to meet that demand. I do not want the same condition of things to exist in Scotland as exists in England. The Scottish peasantry are probably the finest peasantry in the United Kingdom, and I should be glad to see their independence maintained, and that they should be able, if possible, to live in greater independence and comfort. But I do not want to see introduced into Scotland a system of rural and political terrorism such as exists in some parts of England.


I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I must point out that the House was not discussing the clause, but only whether the Bill shall be re-committed. The time for the discussion of clauses is in Committee.


I had hoped that the Allotment Clauses would have been drawn in stronger terms, and that there would have been some means provided by which the compulsory purchase of land could be effected, and that there would have been more stringent powers given to the County Councils. If the clauses be made to read compulsorily instead of permissively it would have a better and more far reaching effect. I am anxious that the peasantry should have an opportunity of owning and tilling land, not as a favour conferred by the landlord, but as a right. I would warn the Scottish Members that if the clause is not amended it will not meet the legitimate wishes of the Scottish peasantry.

* MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)

I understand that the question now before the House at this moment is not as my hon. Friend seems to think the second reading of this clause, but the re-committal of the Bill for the purpose of considering the clause. I gather from the remarks of the Lord Advocate that the Government are in some doubt whether it is desirable to proceed with the clause. The clause as it stands is certainly not satisfactory to the great number of Scotch Members, and it will be necessary if they decide to proceed with it to extend it, especially in the direction of giving facilities for acquiring ground for houses for fishermen, crofters, and others. My belief is that the mere question of allotments, as known in England, does not excite much interest in Scotland, and that the principal point of interest in Scotland in connection with this question is the power to get a larger portion of ground for other purposes. Scotch Members are willing to accep-the clause as a step in the right direct tion, but a strenuous effort will be made by them to extend it. If the Government do not see their way to grant this extension it is for them to say whether they think it desirable to go on with the clause, or whether they will prefer to proceed by a Bill in another Session, so as to deal with the whole question in a larger and wider way. I think we may see, from what has been said by my hon. Friend who has just sat down, that some of our English Colleagues will have something to say on the matter from the point of view of English experience.


From the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down and the hon. Member for the Ilkeston Division (Sir W. Foster) it is quite obvious that Gentlemen opposite desire something of a wider scope than the clause which has been placed upon the Paper to meet their views. The Government, therefore, have to consider what their course ought to be under the circumstances. It is impossible at this period of the Session and in the interests of the Bill itself, which we consider of great importance, to enter into a discussion of the whole relations of the population of Scotland to the land of Scotland, because those are the questions which hon. Gentlemen by their Amendments and the hon. Member for the Ilkeston Division wish to raise. The Government have endeavoured to meet the views of hon. Gentlemen as far as they could. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs (MR. Campbell-Bannerman) admits that the clause has some value. If questions of a large character are raised on the clause it will be impossible to dispose of it in the time at the disposal of the Government for the Bill. We are anxious that the power of granting allotments should be extended to Scotland, and that many special considerations with respect to Scotland should be taken into account with a due regard to the interests of the inhabitants, and also with a due regard to the rights of property. Although it is unfashionable now to speak of the rights of property, yet I think that every subject of the Queen has rights of property to which due regard ought to be paid. In these circumstances, there is but one course open to Her Majesty's Government, and that is to remove the bone of contention. I will therefore ask leave to withdraw the Motion for the re-committal of the Bill as far as relates to the clause dealing with allotments. It is with very great regret that I take this course. The Government will consider the matter during the Recess, and endeavour to submit a measure which will meet, as far as possible, the views of hon. Gentlemen.


Does the right hon. Gentleman move the Motion in an amended form?


I ask for leave, in the first place, to withdraw the Motion which has been put from the Chair.

* SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)

As there is some difference of opinion on this subject, I should like to say a word or two before we go to a Division. There was a good deal in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury which, in its essence, was very satisfactory. If we go now into these clauses, it will be an opportunity for hon. Gentlemen to put forward their views on the relations between the people of Scotland and the land of Scotland. It will be an opportunity for that, but I do not think it will be an opportunity for anything else, because it is certain that we shall be able in the course of this Debate to get the clauses the Government have put on the Paper, and to get nothing else. What, on the other hand, do we gain by adopting the course recommended by the Government? Why, we put on the Government an obligation, which I am sure they will be the first to recognise, to bring forward next Session a Bill suited to the needs and requirements of Scotland, and in saying that I beg to state that I do not for a moment contend that the Government are bound to any particular measure as coming under that category. But what I conceive the Government are bound to do is to lay on the Table a Bill which they consider specially suited for Scotland according to their views of the case. Now, I consider that an extremely valuable promise, if I may use so strong a word, because this is not a mere general promise of Scotch legislation, such as we have had for a good many years past. Promises of Scotch legislation on a similar subject meant nothing so long as we had the Universities Bill and the Local Government Bill hanging over us. But now the field is clear, and it is for us this Session, as far as we can, to see what measures we want in Scotland, and I venture to say there is hardly any measure in which the Scotch would take a greater interest, and which would be of greater service to them, than a measure relating to land. We have already placed before the House our views on the subject. Scotch Members, much more familiar with Scotland than myself, have done it at considerable length, and with great success, interesting the House very much. The Government know what is wanted by Scotch Members in these particulars, and I earnestly trust that the result of the short discussion we have had to-day will be, that we may have a Bill from the Government such as we all desire to see. Under these circumstances, I, for one, shall vote with the right hon. Gentleman, when he proposes to withdraw this Motion.


One thing is very clear, that the Government are only too glad to get rid of the clause. They rashly gave a promise to put in these clauses, and they are willing to give in at the first breath of opposition which comes from an English Member. I have sat with my hon. Friend on the Small Holdings Com- mittee, and have paid attention to the working of the allotments Bill in England, and I do not agree with my hon. Friend that the measure has been a total failure. There has, I think, been overwhelming evidence before the Allotments Committee, that in some cases directly, but generally speaking indirectly, it has been of great use. It has prevented collisions between landlords and Local Authorities on the subject of the increase of allotments. I have great respect for my hon. Friend, but I cannot help thinking that his feelings are influenced by the circumstance that the measure comes from what we consider a tainted source. I must dissent from him in so entirely depreciating that Bill. For my part, I also regret what bas been said by right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench, especially what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow. I accepted the view of the hon. Member for Stirling, that we should rather have this Allotment Bill than no Bill at all. I admit that it is not a complete Bill, and that it does not do all that we could desire it to do, but I think that half a loaf is better than no bread, and as to the consolation that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury gave us—and which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow accepted so readily —that we were to have, next Session, a Bill dealing with the question, I am glad to hear it; but, at the same time, I think that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. We know what is likely to happen in regard to Scotch Bills. When we ask for a measure, say next year, we shall be told that we have had a Scotch Session. And we have had a Scotch Session, having been allowed to go into Scotch business at the end of July when all other business has been cleared away. The Member for Stirling alluded to the great questions to be raised in the Bill. For my part, I do not know that great questions are to be raised. My Amendments are all that are on the Paper, I think, or nearly so; and these Amendments, with one exception, come under the description of the Lord Advocate as forming an adaptation of the English Bill.


The question before the House is that the Motion be withdrawn.


I only desire do say that I should be willing to with- draw the Amendments that differ from the English Bill in order that we may pass a clause corresponding to the English clause. Though we have not in Scotland allotments under the name of allotments we have in many villages what is called "acred land."


Order, order!


Then I would only express my willingness to withdraw the Amendments standing in my name which are not taken from the English Bill.


I do not propose to go into the question of the English Bill, but I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down as to the effect which the English Act has had. It has been eminently valuable at all points. My chief purpose in rising, however, was to say that there should be no misunderstanding as to what the pledge of my right hon. Friend was. The Government recognise, looking at the opinion expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling, and at the indications which followed from Scotch Members, that it is perfectly clear that there is something more in the minds of Scotch Members in connection with this matter than the provisions which refer to England. Looked at from a Scotch point of view, it is simply an allotment measure. That being so, it is evident there is no chance of giving satisfaction to Scotch Members by trying to push forward and to pass the clause which has been put on the Paper. The Government feel, therefore, that it would be very much better for them to consider the whole subject in connection particularly with Scotland, and to endeavour to frame some measure on lines which would be satisfactory to Scotch opinion generally. We shall, of course, keep our promise, and if we can see our way to introduce such a measure next Session we shall be extremely glad to do so. We recognize, and recognize fully, that it will be in the interest not only of Scotland but of ourselves if we can bring forward a measure which will be fairly satisfactory to Scotch Members. We hope we may be able to introduce that measure, and carry it next Session; but I trust the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow will not seek to carry the pledge further than that. The Government cannot, of course, at this stage pledge themselves as to what measures will be introduced next Session; but they will consider the whole question and see what can be done.


The right hon. Gentleman's speech is as clear and precise as a Minute, and no one can wish to go outside it.

* MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)

As representing a Scottish county constituency, perhaps I may be allowed to say a word on the Motion to withdraw the clause. I desire to express in a single word my entire agreement with what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling, that the circumstances of Scotland and of Scottish counties in regard to fishermen's dwellings and other subjects connected with the land are——


I am sorry again to have to interrupt an hon. Member. But I must point out that the Motion is not to withdraw the clause, but to withdraw the Motion for going into Committee in respect of the clause.


On that question I must say that I agree with what has fallen from the right hon. Member for Stirling, and do not concur in the views expressed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy. I hope that, considering the promise the Government have given to bestow fair consideration on this question, and considering that all responsibility will be on the Government, we shall take no exception to the course they propose.

MR. HALLEY STEWART (Lincolnshire, Spalding)

As there is an Amendment down in my name—the first on the list—I rise to say that I should be happy to withdraw it if it is in the way of the passing of the clause. I say frankly that I was prepared to move a considerable number of Amendments, but rather than imperil the passing of this clause I would refrain. Last year when the Local Government Bill was before the House the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board told us that we should this year have a District Councils Bill. Unfortunately, however, a Minister proposes and the Government as a whole disposes of all these questions. Though I do not wish to challenge the intentions of the individual Ministers who have promised us an Allotments Act next Session, I very much question whether next Session we shall not find ourselves in the same position with regard to that Act that we find ourselves in with regard-to the District Councils Act. I hope the Government will carry out this clause.


I must say I regret the course taken by the two Front Benches. It was two years ago that the Allotments Bill was brought in, and at that time I moved an Amendment to the effect that the Measure should apply to Scotland. That Amendment was accepted originally, but afterwards, struck out at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning, on the understanding that we were to get a Bill for Scotland. Well, we have not had that Scotch Bill yet, and I have no doubt the Government will be able to find plenty of excuses for not bringing in a Bill next Session. I am prepared to take the matter step by step. I do not expect much from the present Government; I expect more from the Government that will succeed them; but I am prepared to accept whatever the Government can give us. Next year if they can bring in a Bill to give us allotments and small holdings I shall be surprised; but I shall be glad to be surprised.


If the Motion to withdraw the clause is objected to, I shall have to put the question in a different form, otherwise, if the Government were to gain their point on a Division the House would be in exactly the same position it is in now. Is it your pleasure that the Amendment be withdrawn? [Cries of "No."]

Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "and in respect of a new Clause (County Council to have power to take land.)—(MR. Solicitor-General for Scotland.)

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 61; Noes. 152.—(Div. List, No. 253.)

Main Question, as amended, proposed.


I have an Amendment down to re-commit the Bill also in respect of Clause 19, for the purpose of amending the clause in such a way as to place Scotland in the same position, pecuniarily, as England is in with regard to licenses—that is to say, that the amount of licenses shall be given for the current year to Scotland as is the case in England. We are only getting £265,500 in respect of these grants, and if we were placed in the same position as England we should get £57,000 more. If the Government do not see their way to accept my proposal, I would leave it to them to equalise the payment to Scotland in some other way.


I would point out that this is a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the hon. Member is not in order in moving the Amendment.


I am aware of that, Sir; but I desire to draw the attention of the Government to the matter, and——


Order, order!— there is no Question before the House.

* MR. LYELL (Orkney and Shetland)

There is a proposal on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Wick (MR. Macdonald Cameron)—namely, as an Amendment to the Lord Advocate's Motion, at end to add "and also in respect of a new Clause (Payment of travelling expenses to County Councillors within those counties to which 'The Crofter (Scotland) Act, 1886,' applies.") I desire to move the first part of this Amendment down to "Councillors." This matter has been left open to this final stage owing to some misunderstanding with the Lord Advocate. I think it was understood that he was to consider the matter before the Report stage. The cost of my proposal would not be much—probably, not more than £500 per annum—and yet it would conduce greatly to the efficiency of the County Council.

Amendment proposed, at the end of the Question, to add the words "and also in respect of a new Clause (Payment of travelling expenses to County Councillors.")—(MR. Lyell.)

Question proposed "That those words be there added."


I beg to move, as an Amendment the addition which stands in my name on the Paper, whereby the Bill will be further committed in respect to a new clause, providing for the payment of travelling expenses of County Councillors within those counties to which the Crofters' Act applies. I know from what the Lord Advocate has stated that the Government are not inclined to agree to this proposal; but, as I have pointed out on a previous occasion, there are special conditions in the Highlands of Scotland which make it almost absolutely necessary that something of the kind should be introduced into this Bill. We know that there are men in different parts of the Highlands who, when elected as Councillors, would have to travel very long distances to and from the Council meetings, and it is only fair that in their case the Government should accept some proposition of this kind.

Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment, at the end thereof to add the words— Within those counties to which the Crofters (Scotland) Act, 1886, applies)."—(MR. Macdonald Cameron.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there added in the proposed Amendment."


The proposals of the two hon. Gentlemen who have just spoken illustrate the difficulty and complexity of the matter with which we have to deal. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (MR. Lyell) proposes one thing and the hon. Member for Wick (MR. Macdonald Cameron) proposes another; and the latter hon. Gentleman told the House that he knew from me the Government would not assent to his Amendment. What I said when the Bill was in Committee was that I thought it might be possible to make some provision in certain cases by which the travelling expenses of those who will be called on to go very long distances might be met. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Wick has referred to a private conversation which passed between us on this subject. What I said to him was that I had an idea that the matter was one requiring consideration, and that I must consult my Colleagues on the subject; but the hon. Gentleman had better put down an Amendment on the Paper. However, the subject being, as I have said, a very complex one, the view which I expressed with regard to it in Committee did not meet with general acceptance, hon. Members finding themselves unable to distinguish between the needs of different counties in regard to this matter. Although I should have been very glad if some method could have been devised for meeting the difficulty, yet, under all the circumstances, I feel it my duty to oppose the Amendment which has been proposed.


I very much prefer the Amendment in the form in which the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland has moved it. I admit that, with regard to those who will have to travel the long distances that have been spoken of, the matter is one of importance, and I should be glad if the Lord Advocate could see his way to make special arrangements by which such cases could be met. If this is not done, some of those who will be called on to attend meetings of the County Councils will have to travel very long distances indeed, the expense of which will be exceedingly heavy.

MR. ANGUS SUTHERLAND (Sutherlandshire)

I had hoped that, after what the Lord Advocate had said to my hon. Friend, he would have approached this question in a very different spirit from that which he has just displayed. The grounds on which we urge this proposal in regard to the Highland counties, are the sparsity of the population, and the long distances which in many instances the Councillors would have to travel. The Lord Advocate has expressed a hope that some method of meeting the difficulty might be devised; it appears to me that the difficulty would soon be disposed of if the right hon. and learned Gentleman would only apply his mind to it. All that is needed is, that the Government should do something in the matter.


It is evident that the Government do not see their way to assent to this proposal at all, and, therefore, it seems unnecessary that we should prolong the controversy whether the provision ought to be confined to certain counties, or to extend to the whole country. I would, therefore, suggest to my Friends on this side of the House that we should emphasise our demand by now going to a Division on the general question, whether the expenses should be paid or not.

* DR. MACDONALD (Ross and Cromarty)

I hope the Government will find some way out of the difficulty. It has already been shown, by myself and others, that in certain cases it will require five days for County Councillors from Stornoway and Lews to attend the Council meetings, and it was admitted last night that the crofters would necessarily appoint representatives of their own class. I would put it to the House, how would it be possible for men in their position to bear the expense and loss of time that would thus be imposed on them? The circumstances are entirely exceptional, and the Government ought to deal with them as such.

MR. HUNTEE (Aberdeen, N.)

I think that those who imagined the Government would give way on this point only displayed the remarkable innocence of their character. I trust, however, that the crofters will now take note of the manner in which they are being treated by the Government, and that when attempts are being made to bribe them from the cause of Home Rule they will see who are their true friends.

The House divided:—Ayes 79; Noes 165.—(Div. List, No. 254.)

Question put, "That the words 'and also in respect of a new Clause (Payment of travelling expenses to County Councillors)' be added to the Main Question, as amended."

The House divided:—Ayes 104; Noes 147.—(Div. List, No. 255.)

Main Question, as amended, again proposed.


I now beg to move to add, at the end of the Question, the words "and also in respect of a new clause (County Council to maintain piers and harbours)." I hope the Lord Advocate will agree to this, as it is a matter of special importance to the northern counties. The present system is so expensive that it often costs as much to get the powers as it is proposed to spend on small harbours which are necessary. Take the case of Thurso, in my own constituency. A small harbour is required, and the Bill was passed through the House this year, the proceedings having cost something like £600. Now, under the 15th clause, the Secretary for Scotland has powers to grant Provisional Orders, and I think it is much to be desired that by some such means the people of Scotland should have a reasonably cheap method of getting powers to construct public works.

Amendment proposed at the end of the Question to add the words, "and also in respect of a new Clause (County Council to maintain piers and harbours.)"—(Dr. Clark.)

Question put, "That those words be there added."


According to this Bill you have empowered the County Council to advance money for the purposes of emigration and colonization. Now you are asked to give it power to have regard to the erection of piers and harbours, for the purpose of developing the resources of the country. Surely there can be no objection to such a proposal. Frequently, when the Government are asked to make grants of money for piers and harbour works, they ask— "What is the locality going to do?" Now, we desire that the Local Authority shall have power to grant local aid; and, if that is conceded, there will be less necessity to apply for an Imperial grant. Surely, it is hard to ask a locality to do something in the way of advancing public works in its district, and yet refuse to confer on it the only way of doing it. It must be remembered that the people in these districts are individually too poor to do it.


The hon. Member for Caithness has stated without exaggeration the importance of this subject to certain districts in Scotland. The expense that is now incurred in obtaining Provisional Orders will, I hope, be in part avoided by the measure with regard to private Bill legislation, which it is the desire of the Government to pass next Session. I trust the hon. Member will be satisfied with having that desire put on record, the more so as it would be impossible to accomplish the object the hon. Member has in view without a much more elaborate definition of rights and conditions than can be inserted in the clause contemplated.

MR. DUFF (Banff)

I sympathize to a great extent with the object of the hon. Member for Caithness, but I also think there is great force in the remarks which have fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate as to the manner in which this Motion is framed. In addition to that, complicated questions of rating may arise. If the County Council proceeded to rate the whole county for the benefit of a work in a particular district, localities which did not benefit directly by the undertaking would naturally object to that general rate. It would indeed be necessary in the case of a new harbour to create a special harbour supply district. Although the object of this proposed clause is a good one, I think it is a matter which the Government will have to deal with separately. What is required is power to create pier and harbour districts for purposes of rating, and under the circumstances I hope the hon. Member will rest satisfied with having brought the matter before the House and not press the Amendment, for I do not see that anything practical is to be gained by doing that.

Question put, and negatived.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Bill re-committed, in respect of an Amendment to Clause 16.

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Amendment proposed, Clause 16, page 8, line 31, after the word "Committee" to insert the words— And so much of Section 24 and 58 as provides that proprietors only shall vote in regard to the construction of new roads and bridges, and be liable for the cost thereof, shall be repealed in regard to roads and bridges to be made, built, or rebuilt after the appointed day; and the cost of such construction shall be provided for in the same manner as the cost of maintenance of existing roads and bridges; (d) The assessment for road debt under 'The Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Act, 1878,' or under any Local Act of Parliament shall, until the debt is wholly repaid, be payable by owners only, subject to the provisions of the said Acts: Provided that nothing contained in this Act shall derogate from the provisions of Section 40 of 'The Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Act, 1878,' in regard to the liability for road debts in detached parts of counties, and if any question shall arise as to the application of the last mentioned provisions, it may be disposed of summarily by the Sheriff of the County within which the lands and heritages are locally situated, and his decision shall be final."—(The Lord Advocate.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


In proposing this Amendment I think it is only due to the House I should explain it is necessary to avoid giving to owners a right to determine upon the construction of new roads and bridges, which would be inconsistent with the general scheme of the Bill and to prevent the creation of an exceptional privilege with regard to that class of expenditure.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill reported as amended, and considered as amended (Queen's consent signified).

Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a third time."


I think the House will admit that this Bill has been most fully and carefully considered on both sides of the House. There has been a large amount of time given to it, but not, I think, an unreasonable amount, having regard to the great importance of its subject; and, therefore, trust that I shall not be thought to be asking for anything that is unfair, looking at the period of the Session and the very important business to be disposed of, if I request the House to allow the Bill now to be read a third time. I do not think that the House either would desire to effect, or could effect, any considerable alteration of the Bill on the Third Beading stage. On the contrary, there has been every indication on both sides of the House that, although there may be considerable difference of opinion as to its provisions, some thinking that it does not go quite far enough and some desiring to make it a larger measure, still, taking it as it is, there is a universal desire it should pass; and under those circumstances I hope I am not asking too much in moving that the Bill be now read a third time.


I hope the House will agree to the Motion without difficulty. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to arrange for having the Bill printed immediately as it stands, in order that our constituents in Scotland may know what are its provisions. Before passing from the subject I wish to congratulate the Lord Advocate personally on the success which has attended his labours; and I do not hesitate to say that the passing of the measure in the form in which it now stands is largely due to the great care, courtesy, and ability which the Lord Advocate has displayed.


I am very willing that the Bill should now be read a third time as we have done our best to amend it, and could not hope to amend it further now. I only wish to say a word as to a question to which I attach great importance, both practical and sentimental, and which has not been discussed—namely, as to the imposition of English holidays upon Scotland under Clause 90. I am not a Scotch Nationalist—I do not want to legislate for Scotland as a separate nation; but that country is an ancient kingdom, and at least a large Province of the Empire; we have our own law and institutions, and I think it could never be intended that our institutions should be Anglicized in a forcible manner by surprise. New Year's Day is by far the most important holiday in Scotland; and it is notorious that Good Friday is a day entirely unknown in shops or places of business in the country. There is a good deal of feeling on this subject, for this provision shows a disposition to wipe out Scotland as a separate part of this kingdom. I therefore hope that the question will be re-considered, and that what has been done by inadvertence in this House will be set right when the Bill goes to the other House.


I will not oppose the Third Reading of the Bill. I think it has been fairly well amended, and that the Government have conceded a good deal to the opinions of Scotch Members on the Opposition Benches. At the same time, I regard the financial arrangements of the measure as unfair and unjust to Scotland, which the Treasury appear to consider a country to be exploited, and not to be given a farthing if they can help it. This year Scotland was to be robbed of £57,000 which rightly belongs to her. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer should remember that Scotland pays more than her fair share of taxation, and as we are to lose £57,000 this year I hope the right hon. Gentleman will afford some aid to more or less philanthropic schemes which are being promoted in the poorer districts.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the third time, and passed.