§ Order for Second Reading, read.
§ * MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling, Burghs)
Mr. Speaker, in the course of the short debate which occurred on the introduction of this measure, there was addressed from all quarters of the House to the Lord Advocate, who was then the spokesman of the Government, a general expression of congratulation. The reason of that prevailing feeling I believe to have been that we were ready to recognize in the general scope and scheme of this measure, and the cognate measures, a desire on the part of Her Majesty's Government to deal with this great question in a broad, impartial, and, to a certain extent,in a bold spirit. And for my part, now that we have had several weeks in which to consider in greater detail, and at our leisure, the nature of the Government's proposals, I am not ready either to withdraw or to modify any of the laudatory phrases I used. Blemishes there are in these Bills, and omissions and mistakes, some of them of a very grave nature; and it will be our duty to point this out and to do our best to amend them. But this I can promise Her Majesty's Government on the part of those with whom I am associated, that there is not the slightest desire amongst us to make what is called Party capital out of this great subject. On the contrary, we will spare no pains to assist the Government in perfecting their scheme of Local Government for Scotland, so as to make it answer as fully as may be the desires and requirements of the Scottish people. But I cannot refrain from alluding to a speech delivered at Millport in the course of the Easter holidays by the Lord Advocate. It seemed to me to be an unfortunate speech. The right hon. Gentleman was addressing his own constituents, and finding himself on his own familiar vantage ground, he crowed somewhat loudly. He was unsparing in his praises of his own legislative offspring. It is not unusual for a mother to fall into an ecstacy of adoration in the contemplation of her babe, but she 837 usually selects for the assumption of that attitude the privacy of her own chamber. And the Lord Advocate must have forgotten that in these days the eye, and what is more important the ear, of public opinion is able to penetrate even to the island of Cumbrae. But he not only emulated the mother in her exaggerated admiration of her own child; he copied her also in her maternal solicitude for its safety. The air, according to the Lord Advocate, was full of danger to his measure. He had heard rumours of obstruction coming from this part of the House, and with great gallantry he assured his constituents that with the resources at his disposal he should be able to cope with obstruction.
§ * THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J P. B. ROBERTSON, Bute)
I do not wish the right hon. Gentleman to fall into an inaccuracy. I said that I had heard such rumours as he indicated, but I proceeded to say that I disbelieved them.
§ * MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I am glad to hear that he disbelieved them, but he certainly mentioned, by way of fortifying himself in the disbelief, that with the resources of public feeling at his disposal—that was the expression he used—he should be able to overcome obstruction. I must have read an inaccurate report of his remarks, but I saw the words which I have stated. But, taking it altogether, I was disappointed with the speech, because it is not, as it seems to me, by a tone such as this, or by language such as I have, at all events, seen imputed to the learned Lord, that the ways of business are smoothed, or that the Government will conciliate the loyal co-operation which from the first we have offered in this matter. However this may be, we are anxious at least that the first two Bills of this group should pass, and pass in such an amended form as to bestow a real benefit on the local interests of Scotland. It will be our endeavour by the free expression of our opinions—opinions which, we believe, are shared by the great majority of our countrymen—to give the Government such encouragement as may induce them to carry, to a much greater extent than they have at the outset ventured upon, the essential principles which lie at the basis? of this whole proposal. The truth is, 838 as far as the governing bodies of the counties are concerned, unless we carry the principles of the first Bill and the reform of local administration further than is proposed, it was hardly worth while to meddle with it at all. County management in Scotland is already largely in the hands of those who have to bear the burdens. And here is the difference between England and Scotland. I think it most desirable on this occasion to dwell upon the point, although it may be familiar to many hon. Members. Until recently, in England there was not a shred of representation in county government; but in Scotland, for a long period, and in a definite shape since 1856, the Commissioners of Supply are actually the men who pay the rate. Every proprietor of land, to the annual value of £100 a year, may claim to be enrolled a Commissioner of Supply; or if his property is in houses, to the value of £200 a year. And these constitute the body which controls the business of the county. There is, no doubt, a tangible grievance on the part of owners of property which comes under the £100 line. But speaking generally, the House will recognize at once the material difference between the position in Scotch counties and the position in English. We, therefore, start with a very long advantage over England. I mention this most elementary fact, not in order to inform the House of that which it already knows, but in order to argue from it that we must maintain this advantage that we already possess, and to protest in the strongest terms against the English Act of last year being taken in any way as a guide or standard of what is required in Scotland. But there is a further and wider reason for what I say. I maintain that a larger scheme is demanded by the genius of the Scottish people. For long years we have been accustomed to democratic forms in Scotland, and impatient of any superimposed authority which does not rest on the popular will. This fact enters deeply into the feeling of the Scottish people; and I do not hesitate to ascribe their familiarity with, and their belief in, and their fondness for, democratic ideals mainly to their traditional form of Church government. In former days it was questions of ecclesiastical rather than of civil policy 839 and government that attracted the interest of the Scotch people, and although this is now greatly changed, yet the Presbyterian spirit has extended to their political views, and this spirit has permeated the community quite outside the pale of the three Presbyterian Churches, so that many a man who does not range himself among their followers is yet influenced, perhaps unconsciously, by their form of government. Let the House for a moment consider how complete is the analogy:which the Presbyterian system of Church government affords to the graduated system of local government now generally approved. You have the Kirk Session dealing with all affairs of the parish, just as you have the Parochial Board. You have the Presbytery for the district, answering to the District Council. You have the Synod for the county, or union of counties, corresponding with the County Council, and above that, beyond them all, you have the General Assembly, which meets once a year to control the affairs of the whole Church throughout the country, and which may he taken as an analogue to the possible realization of a legislative assembly dealing with the affairs of Scotland. That, however, is beyond our limit just now, but I think I have said enough to make it clear that it is right to protest against finding any analogy in the Act which was passed last year for England. I believe that the Government itself will agree in this. It was not unnatural that in drafting these Bills they should have regard to the precedent of last year; but the House is free to amend them without regard to that precedent; and in respect of this matter, I would especially make an appeal to English Members, who are the arbiters of our fate. They may not listen to our discussions but by their votes in divisions they determine the points of difference among us. I would ask them therefore to endeavour to deal with the questions submitted to them from a Scotch rather than from an English point of view, and especially with regard to the first of these two Bills, which is the principal one. The whole scheme of the Government is embraced in four Bills, which stand as regards the interest and probable influence and power of the House, in a sort of diminuendo scale. 840 The first Bill, which contains the larger provision for the framework of County Government, is wholly reserved for the consideration of the Committee of the whole House. Here it is that I claim tender treatment at the hands of English Members. The second Bill, which embodies subsidiary details, we are told, it is the intention of the Government to refer to a Committee, somewhat strengthened by the presence of Scotch Members. The idea, I presume, is that this Bill may be thrown to the wolves, in order to save the life of, or mitigate the attack upon, its elder sister. I think it right at once to say that that would be most unsatisfactory to Scotch Members. We should be glad to have any of these Bills referred to a Scotch Committee composed of the Scotch representatives, but we are not at all willing that the details of any of these Bills should be settled in a Committee largely, or even principally, composed of English Members. We would prefer the publicity of the Committee of the whole House. With regard to the third Bill, dealing with Parochial Boards, I was rather surprised at the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman that that Bill should be considered together with the others, on condition of the Second Reading being unopposed. We have been informed from the Chair—and Mr. Speaker's authority was not really required to convince us—that we cannot, according to the rules of debate, take the Parochial Boards Bill in combination with the other two. The right hon. Gentleman is totally mistaken if he thinks that by any management of that sort he will easily obtain the Second Reading of the Parochial Boards Bill, which we regard as totally unsatisfactory. The opposition to it will be strenuous and prolonged, and I trust that the Government will not in any way imperil or delay the first two Bills by mixing them up unnecessarily with the Parochial Boards Bill. Last of all, there is a Bill dealing with Private Bill legislation, which is associated with the others, though why I do not know; but I need not go into it now, as in all probability we shall hear nothing more of it this Session. And now I must interpolate an affectionate inquiry as to the position of another measure—an old and familiar friend. 841 Here are four Bills, but where is the fifth? Where is the Burgh Police and Health Bill? That Bill has already had a singular and chequered career. It has been three times introduced in the House of Commons by successive Governments and twice in the House of Lords; it has been twice mentioned in Her Majesty's gracious Speech from the Throne; it has been twice considered by a Select Committee of the House of Commons, and once by a Select Committee of the House of Lords; it has been once read a third time in the House of Commons, and twice read a third time in the House of Lords. Last year it was introduced, as usual, and a number of my colleagues, willing martyrs to the cause, panted over its provisions through the heats of last summer. When business came into a tight strait in August last, the Scotch Members were invited to meet in the Scotch Office, to determine the particular business that should be proceeded with, and there was then a general feeling in favour of the Burgh Police and Health Bill being pushed forward. The Lord Advocate of the time, speaking in the presence of the Scotch Secretary, gave a strong and excellent reason for proceeding with it. He said, "It is above all things expedient to get it out of the way before we deal with Local Government in Scotland." Weeks and months went on, and still no progress was made with this Bill, and on the 15th November it was withdrawn. And what did the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury say when he withdrew the measure? He said:—The Government are under the impression that it would be better to deal with it in connection with the Local Government Bill for Scotland, which they intend to introduce early next Session.Now, I cannot believe both, but I am willing to accept and believe either of these alternative views. Unfortunately, however, we are now in the position that neither of them has been realized. We are here considering this great question of Local Government and have neither got the Burgh Police and Health Bill put out of the way, nor incorporated in the measure before the House. Therefore, I content myself with making a plaintive inquiry as to the fate and position of that measure. Now, Sir, I have said that the mind and 842 genius of Scotland are favourable to a large reform of Local Government, wide in its basis and strong in its foundation. But this is not the only object on which the mind of Scotland is set. The second object is to simplify and concentrate the powers of local bodies—and here I speak not only of the larger County Authorities, but of the Parochial Boards and the School Boards. There is a strong and prevalent opinion in Scotland that we have too many of these bodies; that there is a needless multiplication of elections and officials, and, therefore, a needless increase of expense, and there is a strong feeling also that if these bodies were consolidated the work would be better done and the bodies themselves would be more dignified and raised in importance, in which case it is probable that better men would be induced to serve upon them. Now, I do not say that in every respect all their functions could be combined, and still less do I say that consolidation should be effected at once; but I strongly hold the opinion that we should look in this direction, and that the new frame-work should be made to fit and suit as closely as possible such a prospective change. Well, Mr. Speaker, if I were frankly and plainly to express the practical effect of all I have been saying as to the state of feeling in Scotland, it would come to this: that in my opinion we should seek to set up all over the country the same form and degree of municipal government which prevails in the large towns. For my own part, I would make no reservation in the matter. I would give confidently and ungrudgingly to the inhabitants of the counties the same complete control over all their local affairs that is possessed with such good results by their neighbours in the towns; and I am satisfied that whether this is done at once, or whether it comes piece by piece, nothing short of it will satisfy their just claims, or ensure harmony, efficiency, and stability in local administration. Now, Sir, having thus stated broadly but distinctly my ideal—and I think my feeling is shared by many of my hon. Friends around me—I will proceed to a consideration of the detailed provisions of these Bills. I am afraid that what I have to say will be mostly made up of criticism and objection; but I hope the Government will understand that I do not wish to occupy the time 843 of the House in empty expressions of agreement where I think they have gone in the right direction. The first point which meets us is the constitution of the new body for the government of the counties; and with regard to that the first question we have to ask is, who are to be the electors? Now, the Government propose that the electors should be practically those on the municipal register, plus Peers. Well, Peers are—to use language familiar in the days of my youth—a negligible quantity; they do not amount to very much in the way of addition to the register. But the real crux of the question lies in the service franchise. The Government propose that there should be for this purpose no service franchise of the ordinary kind; but that anyone entitled to enjoy the service franchise may claim to vote for the county if he will qualify himself by paying his share of the county assessment. This is based on a maxim which, I think, has been misunderstood—the maxim that representation and taxation should go together. That maxim has, no doubt, done good service in the past, but I have always understood it to mean that no man should be taxed who is not represented, but not that no man should be represented unless he is taxed. And if the House will consider the position of the Scotch farm servant or ploughman who will constitute the bulk of those who will come in under the service franchise, it will be seen that he is already taxed; because, if he does not pay his contribution to the taxation of the country directly, he pays it indirectly. It may be difficult to analyze this, or bring it precisely to book, or put one's finger on the precise moment in which he pays, but there is no question about it that he not only has as much interest in the good government of the locality in which he lives as anyone, whether paying rates or not, but that he does contribute, in one way or another, to the cost of the Government. Therefore, we shall make a strong endeavour, which I hope will not be resisted with any great obstinacy, to introduce these service franchise-men into the new constituency. And it will then come to this, that the electors will be Parliamentary electors, plus women. Even the opponents of giving the Parliamentary franchise to women admit that they may properly 844 have votes in local affairs. They have votes for School Boards, and they also have votes for Town Councils, and they certainly ought to possess the same privilege in regard to county matters. But I wish to pass a little criticism on a phrase used in the clause which confers the female franchise. The clause says:—Every woman who is not married and living in family with her husband, otherwise possessing the qualification for being registered as a Parliamentary elector, but who is disqualified, for being so registered by reason of being a woman, shall, nevertheless, be entitled to be registered as a county elector.I do not know whether these words—"not married and living in family with her husband"—are borrowed from some other Act or Bill, but they do not appear to me to be very happy. Of course, a woman who is not married would not have a husband to live with, but the meaning may be a "woman who is not married, or who being married is not living with her husband." But whatever the meaning, I object to it altogether. I. object to the exclusion of married women from the exercise of this privilege. Why should a married woman be shut out from enjoying it, while those who have-failed to change their condition in life, or, still less, a married woman who is unfortuaate enough to be living away from her husband, is to be preferred? I hope that when we come to that part of the Bill in Committee we shall be able to make some improvement in it. On this subject there is one clause as to. the mode of election and the qualifications of those elected which a good many of us will regard with a considerable degree of satisfaction. It is Clause 7, of the Second Bill, which says that—No person shall be entitled to give more than one vote, or vote for more than one candidate at one election of the County Council.I need hardly say that many of us wish to see that provision extended to Parliamentary elections; and I think it will be difficult for the Government, or for any one assenting to this proposal, to refuse to extend it to Parliamentary elections, because it is puzzling to us to see why, if it be right in respect to a county election, that a person who is interested and. has property in, say, six divisions of a county, should only have one vote at the election of a County Council, yet at the same time, in respect of a Parlia- 845 mentary election, a man who has a property interest in six counties has six Parliamentary votes. [A VOICE: "In six different counties?"] Exactly so; in six counties. The right hon. Gentleman's experience makes it clear. If he has property in six different counties he has six different votes in county elections on account of his six different interests; but that is because those county interests are altogether separate and distinct. According to this legislation, a man will be entitled to make his voice heard in controlling the affairs of his own county; but if he has property in half a dozen different divisions of that county, he can only vote in one. We shall hope, by-and-by, to see the same principle applied to Imperial Elections. There is one point on which I should like to ask the Lord Advocate a question, and that is with regard to Clause 10, relating to the Convener of the Council. The clause says—The Convener of the Council shall be a fit person, elected by the Council from among the Councillors or persous qualified to be such.Am I right in believing this to mean that a person may be elected as Convener of the Council who, nevertheless, has not succeeded in obtaining election to the Council? If so, that is a provision to which I shall oppose the strongest objection; because I hold that the Convener ought, at least, to be a man able to inspire sufficient confidence on the part of the electors of his division of the county to obtain his election to that body. I pass by the method of dividing the counties and settling the number of Councillors, although I think that it is a difficult matter. I think it would be satisfactory if we could be told the number of Councillors contemplated in proportion to the population. I will also pass by another point which is open to discussion—namely, whether there shall be an election once in three years, or whether we should adopt the burgh system of one out of three members retiring every year. Although that involves an election every year, I think there are obvious advantages in that system. I now come to the powers to be attributed to the Council when formed, and a prominent point with regard to this is that it is proposed for certain purposes to maintain the Commissioners of Supply and the Justices of the Peace. Now, why is this? We are, 846 in fact, to establish a new body upon a popular basis with great capacity and power for work, and yet we are not to hand over to them all the duties of the body they supercede. Does the Lord Advocate think that the Commissioners of Supply are overburdened with work? Nine-tenths of the Commissioners take no interest in the work at all, and those who do get through it in a very short space of time. At any rate, they are in no way overburdened. Clause 15, indeed, proposes in a vague sort of way to indicate certain powers which may in future be transferred to the County Councils, but I do not think, although they sound well on paper, that they will amount to much after all. Practicaly, we shall remain in this position, that the Commissioners of Supply have very little to do, and the greater part of what they have to do will be still retained in their hands and not transferred to the County Councils. Perhaps we may be able to judge better of the proposals of the Government by the actual language of the Bill. Why is this moribund body to be retained in life? Clause 12 maintains in force all the enactments relating to them and the full machinery for keeping up the list of Commissioners of Supply, in order that they may meet once a year in the same place and on the same day as the County Council, but without transacting any business beyond the election of Convener of the Commissioners of Supply and the election of seven of their number to act as a committee for certain other purposes—those purposes being specified in Clause 18. This Committee of seven Commissioners of Supply together with seven Councillors, plus the Sheriff, are to be entrusted with the whole powers under the Police Act, with the power of sanctioning any work involving capital, expenditure, and with the powers of borrowing money now possessed by the Commissioners of Supply. These are the sole purposes for which this great machinery is to be maintained. Of course, the most important matter is the control of the police. Why not trust the County Councils? Is there any reason why, in Scotland of all countries, the electors and the elected shall not have complete control over the police? Why should not the County Council of Mid Lothian and the County Council of Lanarkshire have the 847 control of the police as well as their neighbours in Edinburgh and Glasgow? Will the Lord Advocate or any Scotch-man sitting behind him say they cannot trust their countrymen in this matter? I have a shrewd idea that this decision has been arrived at, not because of any consideration of the capacity or trustworthiness of the people of Mid Lothian or Lanarkshire, but for another reason altogether, the clue to which is to be found in a sentence of the speech of the Lord Advocate in introducing the Bill. The learned Lord said—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 furthest Hebrides."The furthest Hebrides" is to be the standard of the extent to which the County Councils are to be trusted, and I am sure it is in "the furthest Hebrides" the clue to this mystery is to be found. It is the fear of the crofters which has prevented the control of the police being given to the County Councils. There is a great deal of shaking of the head and tremor in the voice over the crofters, and it is not unnatural, because the Lord Advocate and some of his predecessors have had trouble with the crofters and their notions of law and order. Now, my answer to the argument thus hinted is twofold. In my opinion, and in that of many others, the way to secure in the Hebrides, as in some other quarters of the world, which need not be particularly named, the orderly obedience of the people to constituted authority, is to make that authority spring from the people themselves; and nothing is more likely to have a sobering and steadying effect on the spirit of the crofter population, than that they should be admitted to a full share of power and responsibility in the maintenance of order—in fact, that you should give them the very thing you now expressly and designedly deny. My second answer is that, supposing there is some danger and inconvenience in this course, and I can imagine, after all that has happened, that any sudden transfer of these powers may be attended with temporary inconvenience, why should all Scotland on that account be punished and hindered? Why should the crofter difficulty which exists in 848 certain counties—and in certain parts of such counties only—why should the crofter difficulty, which is greatly exaggerated by the Government, and for which the crofters are by no means chiefly to blame, furnish a bed of Procrustes to which every county in Scotland must be fitted? I protest against such a course. Let the crofter difficulty, if crofter difficulty there be, be dealt with if necessary by special provisions, but do not let the capable citizens of Fife and Dumfries, on account of that difficulty, be defrauded of their right to this large element in good Government. I do not think, therefore, that that reason for this part of the Bill will hold water. But there may be other reasons. It may be to please the Commissioners of Supply, and to let them down easily. My conviction is that this is wholly unnecessary. We owe much to the Commissioners of Supply, although no doubt they may sometimes have acted so as to be found fault with. All of us sometime or other make mistakes. On the whole, the Commissioners of Supply have discharged their duty well and faithfully, and they will get their reward by being elected County Councillors, and taking a large part in the proceedings of the new body. Of course, they may have a certain sentiment with regard to the supercession of their long established and honourable body, but I have been careful to study the proceedings of the Commissioners of Supply since this Bill was introduced, and I frankly and hopefully recognize the public spirit and equanimity with which they have accepted the great changes which the Bill introduces. In one or two instances they have themselves suggested that what I propose should be done; that they should be put an end to altogether, and their duties transferred bodily to the County Councils; and this on the ground that I have urged, that everything which tends to increase the functions and usefulness of the new body and adds to their dignity and importance, will enable them to perform their work more efficiently. I have now something to say with regard to the Justices of the Peace. I draw a distinction between the Justices of the Peace in England and in Scotland. In Scotland they are not so important a body as the County Magistrates in Eng- 849 land. In England the office confers a certain amount of social position, and has been much sought after. In Scotland that is not so to any large extent, and the duties of a Justice of the Peace in Scotland may be divided into four. They take affidavits, sign warrants, sit occasionally to try petty criminal cases and small assaults, and they control the liquor licenses. The three first duties are only trifling in their nature, and might very well be handed over, as in Burghs, to Magistrates elected from among the Councillors themselves. If so, how much greater is the expenditure of this course with regard to their licensing duties? When we come to the question of dealing with licenses, what is there that more closely affects the well-being of the inhabitants of the county than that question? Let us, then, establish the principle that these functions, whatever they are, ought to be in the hands of men who owe their authority to election by the constituency of the county. And now I come to a question of some difficulty and delicacy, namely, the provision made in the Bill for dealing with county assessments. It is proposed that there should be a record taken of the average expenditure of the last five years; that that amount should be stereotyped; and that so long as the expenditure does not exceed that amount it should remain payable by the owners as it is at present, but that, if it exceeds that amount, then the excess should be divided between the owner and the occupier. I recognize both the desire for fairness and also the ingenuity shown by that arrangement, although I doubt whether it will be altogether fair to stereotype the last five years' expenditure. The expenditure in so short a period may have been excessive, or may have been below the general average. But my principal objection to it is that it proposes to continue on a basis which may be unfair, an obsolete and exceptional arrangement—namely, that of putting the assessment entirely on the owner. I admit that it is not easy to find a perfect alternative for this, but I do not see that there would be any great objection to allowing the county assessment, which, after all, is a small matter in the whole county budget, to be divided between the owner, and occupier as all the other assessments 850 are—saving, of course, existing leases. Of course the tenants might object to the small addition that would be placed upon them, but I do not think that that would be a large matter compared with the advantage of putting the whole assessment upon a uniform basis. In that way we should get a better and more uniform system. Turning from the County Council to the subordinate areas, I attach great importance to the District Councils and Parish Councils. Many a man can diligently attend to public duties in them, who could not journey periodically to a remote country town, and the more we add to the dignity and importance of their functions the better will be the men who are willing to serve on them. The Bill creates District Councils, for the purposes of roads and of health. Of this I entirely approve, because I believe that the Health Acts would be much better administered in a larger area than the parish. It is proposed that two members from each Parochial Board should sit in the District Council. Now, it must not be forgotten that in certain counties, and even in parts of one county, parishes are much smaller than in others, and if two members are returned by each parish there may be great disproportion in the number of members; and I think that some regard should be had to population. With regard to the Parochial Boards Bill, to which I can only cursorily refer, I object to maintaining the distinction between owner and occupier, and also to the large powers given in certain cases to the Board of Supervision. Ido not think that that proposal will be favoured by the Scotch people, at least, not until the Board of Supervision is made more subject to the control and more open to the influence of public opinion than it is at present. I must repeat what I have already said, that there is a general feeling which I cordially share, in favour of extending as far as possible the consolidation of small administrative bodies. We have now in Scotland a School Board in each parish, and there is a general opinion that that is a superfluity, and that, however it may have been in the days when the present school system was being initiated, there are now too many Boards. I should like to know what is the opinion of the Government on the question of consolidating the School 851 Board with the Parochial Board. I am not one of those who complain of them for not having dealt with this matter in these Bills, because I am aware that it would require a considerable amount of adjustment in regard to the different authorities, and also as between the authorities and the Education Department; but I know that there is a strong and growing feeling in Scotland in favour of having one Parish Authority, which should deal with all these matters. The last point, to which I desire to direct the attention of the House is one of great importance. The Bill proposes to devote a large part of the assistance given from the Probate Duty in aid of local expenditure to the purpose of relieving from the payment of school fees. The Lord Advocate himself will admit that this is a point upon which the House is entitled to expect further information. In the first place it is not easy to understand the financial clauses of the Bill, and to reconcile the figures in them with the figures otherwise given to the House. For myself, I confess that I have found the clauses of the Bill embodying the financial proposals to be of a somewhat incomprellensible nature. And, in the second place, we shall expect to hear from the Government what the arrangements with the Education Department as to the payment of fees are to be. The prominent fact is that the money is inadequate for the purpose; and I think that is one of the great changes, which, if it is to be brought about, ought to be effected thoroughly at once. I will not enter into details, but I may at least indicate two sums which, it seems to me, may well be added to the amount at our disposal for this purpose—namely, the£36,000 recently given as an additional grant for roads, and the £30,000 to be devoted to the relief of the Highlands. We do not object to the £30,000 for the relief of the Highlands, but we do not see why it should be contributed at the cost of the ratepayers of the other counties of Scotland; and I think that a strong pressure will be brought to bear on the Government to devote that sum and probably also the other to a more effective purpose. But besides this question of money we are confronted with another—namely, whether this boon should be extended to denominational schools? If it is not so extended 852 there can be little doubt that the result must be prejudicial if not disastrous to those schools. For myself, I would say that, so far as we may proceed in these matters on rigid principle, I am opposed to any further assistance being given to denominational schools. But why am I opposed to any further assistance being given to them? It is because I have always been opposed to any assistance whatever being given to them; and, further, because I am opposed to denominational teaching, whether in Board Schools or in outside schools. But I wish to say frankly that, in my judgment, when on a memorable day in 1872 an Amendment was carried against the Government of the day in favour of continuing religious instruction according to use and wont in the parish schools of Scotland, the opposition to grants to denominational schools in Scotland was gravely and fatally compromised. If Parliament authorizes the teaching in Boar Schools of the elements of religious doctrine according to the tenets of the Presbyterian Church, with what face can we be so fastidious as to religious teaching in other schools? My own opinion has not altered. I am. ready to protest now, as I have always protested against either establishing or perpetuating assistance to denominational schools. But when we come to deal with it as a question of equity between the existing Board Schools and the existing denominational schools the case is one of some difficulty. Denominational schools are few in Scotland; of the scholars in average attendance, I believe 82½ per cent are to be found in Board Schools, 10 per cent in Protestant Schools and 7½ per cent in Catholic schools. I am inclined to view with favour the suggestion shadowed forth by my hon. Friend the Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter), to whom we are indebted for his intelligent and energetic advocacy of free education in Scotland, that if this been is to be extended to denominational schools it should be only for a definite term, and that they should thus be afforded a probationary, or, as I may call it, a purgatorial period in which to prepare either for absorption in the School Board system, or for establishing an independent existence for themselves. These, Sir, are the points which occur to me as most calling for 853 remark at this stage. The objections I have made are most of them important, and some of them almost cardinal objections, and let me state my confident belief that in most of the opinions I have expressed, though not of course in all that I have urged in favour of them, I am not only supported by the great bulk of those with whom it is my pride and pleasure to act in this House, but I think I may say that many of the points, and especially those with regard to extending the powers and strengthening the hands of the Local Authorities, will meet with some response among those who support the Government, both in this House and in the country. In that belief I venture to make an appeal to the Scotch Members. I have already made an appeal to the English Members to give us fair play, and not force their prejudices into the decision of the question. I now appeal to the representatives of Scotland in every part of the House, that we should unite in an earnest effort so to improve and develop this scheme of local administration as to confer upon our country of Scotland—the object, as she is, of our affectionate devotion and service—the inestimable blessing of having in all her districts a free, stable and equitable government.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
I feel sure that all who have listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down will agree with me when I say he has approached this question in a temper and spirit for which the Government are greatly obliged, and if it represents, as I hope it does, the great mass of opinion on his own side of the House, his speech ought to facilitate the passing of a measure the broad outlines of which appear to have commended it to the people of Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman in the early part of his speech rightly warned the House that the measure ought to be looked at from the point of view of Scotland. To that view I venture to give my public adhesion, for I think it would be absurd for the House to approach the consideration of any question applying to only one part of the kingdom without taking into account the previous history and particular wants of that part of the kingdom. We should be ill-advised if we were to thrust our own ideas upon any 854 part of the kingdom wholly irrespective of the specialities and peculiarities which mark its history and present position. But the right hon. Gentleman did not appear to carry out his own recommendation, because he announced a firm determination on the part of himself and his friends to give every means in their power to resist a Bill which we bring forward to complete our general scheme of Local Government for Scotland, I mean the Bill dealing with the parochial system. The right hon. Gentleman may or may not dislike the Bill, but surely he must be aware that public opinion has emphatically pronounced that any scheme dealing with Local Government in Scotland would be extremely inadequate and would not respond to the wishes of the people if it left wholly out of account some alteration and reform of the parochial system. The right hon. Gentleman has dealt with a large number of comparatively, if not absolutely, trifling questions. It would not, I think, be of advantage if at this stage I were to discuss the point about women suffrage, or the one man one vote question, or the power proposed to be given to the new Council to elect as its Convener or Chairman some person who has not received the approval of the constituencies. With regard to the last point I may, however, say I think we should be ill-advised if, in adherence to rigid rule, we excluded from the service of a County Council some gentleman of large experience who meets, as he must do, with the general approval of those who have been elected, simply because, from his age or for some other reason, he was unwilling to go through the fatigue which necessarily attends an election. I should be sorry if the choice of the Council should be restricted in a matter in which surely they ought to be trusted if they are to be trusted at all with the management of their own business. The right hon. Gentleman is very indignant because we have removed from the power of the County Council the management of the police, but surely he was somewhat inconsistent in contending that a County Council is capable of managing the police but is not capable of selecting its own chairman. The right hon. Gentleman desires to give. County Councils and subsidiary bodies some power of dealing with education.
§ * MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I did express a desire to give them that power, but I admitted I could not find fault with the Government for not including it in this measure.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
In that case I will not pursue the subject. The right hon. Gentleman admits that we should have been ill-advised if we had weighted the Bill by adding any large provisions dealing with the reform of bodies which should have the management of education in Scotland.
§ * MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I did not go quite so far as that; I merely said I did not blame the Government.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I will not inquire further as to the particular shade of opinion desired to be expressed; but I will ask the right hon. Gentleman to extend the same method of reasoning to the questions of making magistrates elective and of handing over to them the whole function of licensing. I will not discuss the principle of electing by popular representation those who have to administer justice, because I am aware it exists in the burghs of Scotland and has worked well, I hold the general opinion, in common with most of those who have considered the question, that it is not a desirable method of selecting those on whom rest the responsibility of administering the comparatively trifling matters handed over to magistrates in Scotland. But when you come to licensing you enter upon a much larger question; and last year's experience of the attempt to deal with the subject of licensing in the English Bill has had the effect of a warning to the Government, and will make it most reluctant to imperil the chances of this Bill by opening up the larger questions which must arise whenever the licensing question is touched. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to hesitate and pause before he presses the Government to embark upon so perilous an undertaking. The right hon. Gentleman has criticized the plan proposed with regard to the incidence of rating in the future. The scheme adopted by the Government is that the average rate paid for the last five years shall be stereotyped and be regarded as a permanent charge upon the present payers of the rates—namely, the owners, while any future increase of this average rate shall be paid half 856 by the owners and half by the occupiers. I may at once say that the Government are not particularly wedded to the period of five years, but desire to fix a period which would give a fair average. The right hon. Gentleman appears to wish that the rate should be staightway divided between occupiers and owners. No doubt that would be more simple, and I admit we had to exercise considerable ingenuity in order to find some other plan. The reason for our doing so was this: that we were most unwilling where it could be avoided to impose any burden that could be avoided on any class that we introduced to the franchise. Of course, if the House is inclined to adopt the view propounded by the right hon. Gentleman it certainly is not a matter upon which Her Majesty's Government will offer any opposition. The right hon. Gentleman, however, probably understands why the Bill has been framed as it is. Her Majesty's Government do not desire that it should appear as if it were a condition of the conferring of these extended rights upon occupiers that they should pay more rates. There are still two matters of controversy to which I desire to referߞthe question of the Standing Committee and the question of the service franchise.. With regard to the Standing Committee, the Bill deals with two quite separate topics, capital expenditure and police. As to the proposals of this Bill in reference to capital expenditure, there is considerable analogy between this Bill and the Roads and Bridges Act of 1878, in which a distinction was drawn between capital expenditure and ordinary expenditure. And the reason for the distinction being so drawn is a fair and sound one. Ordinary expenditure falls half on the owners and half on the occupiers, and thus all the voters are interested in securing economy. But with regard to capital expenditure, owing to the system of short leases which exists in Scotland, it falls practically entirely on the owners. A sensible farmer before renewing his lease takes into consideration the amount of the public burdens which attach to the tenure of his farm. The result is, that those whose leases have half expired have a very strong interest in immediate expenditure, and only a faint and feeble interest in economy with regard to capital expenditure, the repayment of 857 which extends over many years, and the burden of which consequently falls on the landowner as soon as the lease runs out. Therefore, there are strong economical reasons why capital expenditure should be controlled by a body elected not by occupiers but by owners. This distinction between capital expenditure and ordinary expenditure which has been drawn in regard to bridges and roads is a just one, and it has worked satisfactorily for the past 11 years in Scotland. I have no doubt that the similar distinction upon which this portion of the Bill is based will be received without opposition by the Scottish people. Now I come to a more controversial question. With regard to the question of the police, the House has been treated to a good deal of commonplace rhetoric. I do not lay down the absolute principle that police administration ought not to be intrusted to municipalities, but it certainly is a matter quite distinct and standing on a different basis to other matters of local administration. Localities are at liberty to be extravagant, for it would be at their own expense, or to have bad roads, or to overbuild or underbuild themselves, for this would be at the cost of their own convenience; but they cannot be allowed to mismanage their police. This is a matter of Imperial concern and affects the administration of justice. This Bill does not remove the police entirely from popular control. Police administration, it is true, is not handed over to the County Councils or to bodies elected purely on a popular basis, but it is handed over to a body in which the representation exactly follows the payment of rates—half by the owners and half by the occupiers. As the rates are divided so is the representation. This cannot be regarded, in view of Scotch traditions in the matter, as antagonistic to popular interests. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to think he had extracted from my right hon. Friend an admission, of which he ought, it is suggested, to be ashamed, that this plan has been adopted because of the somewhat disorganized state of affairs in certain parts of Scotland, and he appeared to think that all that is necessary to set everything right in the Hebrides and the Western Isles is to give the people full control of the police. But if this were done, and the police were handed 858 over to those who have not shown themselves over zealous for the law, serious consequences might ensue for which this House would then be practically responsible. I do not, however, deny that this was one argument which weighed largely with the Government when they were framing this Bill. But I would add that in our opinion the question of police is not on the same footing as other subjects which are handed over to local administration, and we think our proposal is one likely to conduce to the true interests of Scotch local administration. With regard to the service franchise, the right hon. Gentleman objects to the Bill excluding from the county franchise a class of persons to whom the Parliamentary franchise has been given, and he gave us an entirely new version of the ancient maxim that representation and taxation should go together. It is a maxim with which we are all familiar; it is a maxim to which assent has been given by every politician, practical and theoretical, for the last 50 years, and never before have I heard the interpretation put upon it which the ingenuity of the right hon. Gentleman has enabled him to extract from the wisdom of our forefathers. But I do not desire to rest my defence of the proposal of the Government upon any question of pure theory. I want the House to face exactly what we are doing by this great administrative revolution which we propose to carry into, effect. We are going to hand over the whole power in almost all the agricultural counties of Scotland to the service franchise holders. The holders of the service franchise will be a majority, and in some cases a large majority, of the total number of the voters in a great many of the counties. of Scotland. I believe there are no better citizens in the community than the ploughmen and the agricultural labourers of the agricultural districts of Scotland; and I would mete out to them no measure different from that which I would mete out to any other members of the community. But I would not willingly intrust any class with the whole control over the rates of a district, when that class does not contribute a single sixpence to the rates. I am one of those who believe that the present system which we desire to inaugurate will be extended; that it 859 will embrace new functions and new duties; and that the County Council may, before two years have elapsed, be intrusted with other and no less important functions than those which are now to be given to it. I am not prepared, in view of the possible extension of the functions of the Council in the directions of matters of great social importance, to hand over the whole electoral power to people who do not now, and never will, contribute in any shape or form to the cost of the schemes which the Council may carry into effect. The right hon. Gentleman was himself aware that that argument was a powerful one, for he endeavoured to meet it. The right hon. Gentleman told the House that, though not directly taxed, the agricultural community of Scotland were indirectly sufferers by any augmentation of expenditure. I should like to see that idea more fully developed than it has been, because I am utterly unable to see how in any efficient sense that burden is thrown upon the agricultural labourers. Certainly their wages will not diminish by any augmentation of the rates. Wages in Scotland as well as elsewhere are determined solely by supply and demand and by nothing else; and unless you alter the supply of or the demand for labour in the agricultural districts you will not alter wages by a single halfpenny. It is quite true that we may conceive a point at which rates will so fall upon land that some of the land will be thrown out of cultivation wholly, or, being under the plough, will be thrown to grass, with the result that the demand for labour will diminish, and the labourers' wages will diminish in like proportion. But surely the right hon. Gentleman opposite does not regard that as a sort of check which we ought to put upon local extravagance, and does not wish to wait until the whole method of cultivating land is altered before those who vote for these schemes feel the pinch of the expenditure which results from them? If local or any expenditure is to be carried out in an economical spirit, those who are responsible for the expenditure must feel the results of that expenditure. That is the principle underlying the maxim which has been so strangely perverted by the right hon. Gentleman—namely, that taxation and representation should go together. I implore the House to 860 think, not once or twice, but many times before they abandon that well established principle, not in favour of a small class, but in favour of a class who will, in the agricultural parts of Scotland, have the whole control of the constitution of the County Council. I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will do the Government the justice to acknowledge that they have not introduced the Bill with any desire to exclude any man from the franchise. We desire to see included in the scope of our measure the whole agricultural community of Scotland, consistently with the broad principle which I have laid down. Any alteration in our Bill which will facilitate that we shall gladly welcome; but do not let us, in order to get over a temporary difficulty, do something which will not only in the present, but even in the future, conduce to that extravagance which is the great danger to local self-government. It is the only great danger, and if we once allow it to eat into our municipal system, it will bring that system with dishonour to the ground. The right hon. Gentleman has a perfect right to ask the Government for some more explicit information upon their proposal with regard to the relief of the education rate than has yet been given. I hasten to satisfy that demand. Of course, as the House is aware, the original intention which animated the Government in allocating the. sum of £171,000 to Scotch local purposes was to relieve rates and not to touch education, but we found that the general feeling in Scotland was very much more in favour of relieving the weight of the cost of education than of relieving the rates, and in obedience to the general feeling we have altered the plan of allocating these Imperial funds to local purposes. Now, we found considerable difficulty in elaborating a wholly satisfactory plan by which the relief of school rates could be given. One very simple and obvious suggestion was to make an all-round relief of rates of about 2d. The £171,000 would go that length; and we might have diminished every existing school fee by that amount. But it will be observed that the only result of that plan would be to leave it to the school managers to determine whether the relief should be given to the parents of the children or to the ratepayers, because they might easily 861 contrive that the whole of that should go into the pockets of those who now have to pay the school rates. The principles which have governed the action of the Government in the matter are these:—In the first place we are clearly of opinion that voluntarily schools should be treated with perfect equality. The right hon. Gentleman opposite frankly told the House that he objects to that, and that if he had his way he would give no State aid whatever to voluntary schools. But conscious, probably, that that is not an opinion that would find a sufficient body of adherents in the House, he threw the weight of his great authority in favour of the scheme of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire (Mr. Hunter), in which the equality, so to speak, between Board Schools and other State-aided schools, should be continued for a certain period, and should then lapse. The Government are opposed in principle to any inequality of treatment between the two kinds of schools, and we cannot accept either the drastic proposal made by the right hon. Gentleman or the modification of the suggestion which is due to the ingenuity of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to explain. I said I was opposed to all assistance being given to denominational schools. But I am equally opposed to all denominational teaching in Board Schools. As long as there is denominational teaching in Board Schools I do not think that the case is strong against the denominational schools outside.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not think the objectionable proposal is made better by adding another objection. I will not pursue the point, but continue to enumerate the general principles which have guided our policy in this matter. Our second principle is that the relief given should be substantial relief to those who at present suffer under the burden of school fees. Our third principle is that, whatever we do, we should abolish that which has proved the greatest cause of friction in the educational system of Scotland, and which has more than anything else tended to swell the cry in favour of free education—namely, the hardship inflicted upon poor parents by the fact that they have to go to the 862 Parochial Board which administers poor relief before they can get school relief for their children. Therefore our proposal will have the result of entirely eliminating from our educational system the Parochial Board. We propose to distribute the sum at our disposal, the sum of £171,000, amongst State-aided schools in Scotland in proportion to the average attendance at those schools, and to apply it so as to entirely free the first three standards. But we are perfectly conscious that this scheme cannot stop there without being seriously detrimental to the interests of education above the third standard; and, though believing that to free the first three standards will be the most sensible relief to give parents, we know that it will, if unaccompanied by any further provision, have the effect of checking education at the point where the assistance is stopped. It will not, in our opinion, be wise or proper that the parent who is unable to pay school fees for his children in the first three standards should suddenly find when his children are sufficiently advanced to take advantage of the fourth, fifth, and sixth standards, that he is obliged for the first time to go to the Parochial Board to get the fees necessary. We therefore propose to associate that gift towards the education of the first three standards with an arrangement, under which every State-aided school shall be obliged to provide a sufficient number of places for free education in the higher standards for those children who may require it. The first three standards are to be entirely free; above the first three standards every body of school managers is to be obliged to provide free education for such number of children as may require it. Every parent, therefore, will be freed from the necessity of going to the parochial board to obtain education for his children who have passed the third standard. The whole question of pauperism will be eliminated under the new system. The relief is about £171,000 a year; about £155,000 of that will be sufficient to relieve children in the first three standards. There will, therefore, be a residue which will at any rate go far towards aiding school managers in providing places for education above the first three standards. Whether it is enough or not, the total relief will 863 not only be great to those who have to pay fees, but to school managers as well, because it will relieve them of bad debts, and of the obligation to educate those who do not pay. I may also say, in order to make the proposal perfectly clear, that in certain cases of large Schools Boards, like the Glasgow Board, they will not be prevented if they please from having certain schools entirely free, because this is an elastic principle which they may apply, and which the Government will not desire to prevent them applying. The total result is that every parent will be relieved from his school fees up the third standard, and no parent whose child is above the third standard will require to go to the parochial board to educate that child. I have only to add that I hope the views expressed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite are a fair sample of what we may expect from the House. If that is so, Parliament will be able in the course of the present Session to give to the people of Scotland a large and liberal measure of local self-government, and to carry out, in a form suitable to the wants of Scotland, the great measure which we initiated last year for the sister country.
§ * MR. FIRTH (Dundee)
I have read through the Scotch Bills with very considerable interest, in order to compare them with the English Bill of last year with the working of which I have had a certain amount of experience. I am bound to say now, with respect to this Bill, as I said with respect to the Bill of last year that I think the Government are to be congratulated upon having found themselves able to incorporate in it so many important and useful and democratic principles. I find the Scotch Bills, moreover, from the point of view of English requirements, especially interesting both in what they give and in what they omit to give. I cannot altogether refrain from holding the opinion that it might have conduced to a more successful development of the Scotch system of Government if there had been some assembly in. Scotland to whom the preparation of it could have been committed, because it is not to be denied that as regards the large proportion of the Members of this House they coma to the consideration of this question without that full qualification of knowledge which is requisite. But, at any rate, 864 the Bills as they stand will be a very great advantage to Scotland. With respect to things which are omitted, I find, for example, that there are no Aldermen. The Lord Advocate said that Scotland does not know Aldermen. Scotland in that respect is a happy country, and I am glad to find that, although the Government spoke in terms of profound praise of Aldermen last year, they have not had the courage to suggest that they should be established on the free soil of Scotland. I cannot quite see why the whole of the Bills might not have been included in a single measure. With respect to the proposals as to Private Bill legislation, without putting the opinion forward very strongly, I think the question might be well worth consideration whether County Councils, as regards the provision of water, gas, tramways, and matters of that kind, might not have almost final authority; and even in respect of railways, the joining together of a series of counties might perchance prove a solution of the difficulty. But, like the County Councils of last year, the County Councils constituted under these Bills are in an incomplete condition. They have comparatively few of the functions which it is to be hoped that ultimately they will obtain. I think nothing could be more true than the statement of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) that the more power you give to a public body the greater will be the ambition of men to become members of it, and the greater will be the weight it will carry. A body possessing the few powers of these Councils will not have the advantage of the keen eye of public attention directed to it, but perhaps the opinion which is very widely held in Scotland, that the County Councils may well control the police and School Boards and so forth, may find its realization in the future. Another good point which may be useful to England is the system which obtains in Scotland of a rate divided between the owner and the occupier. That is a thing to which we in London are looking forward. Still more important are the observations of the last speaker with respect to free education. A large portion of the payment for the education of the very poor of Scotland is now to be taken away, and this I believe will prove to 865 be the thin end of the wedge. With respect to the Government proposal as to District Committees, I am extremely glad to find that the County Councillors of the different Electoral Divisions are to be members of the District Committee. That is a proposal which was made in the Bill of 1884. Its object is to bring the two bodies that worked together into inter-dependence, and into the closest connection with each other. I have had a considerable number of representations on these matters, and have read the resolutions of the Commissioners of Supply in Forfarshire. They have passed a resolution as to the desirability of having a single register for all purposes. I would go further than putting women and Peers on the Parliamentary register, by having provision made which might usefully have been made in the Bill of last year, that women electing may also be elected. There are certain services which in the working of the Bill of last year we have found women able to render, and which I am sure would be of advantage in the Scotch system also. I re-echo what was said with regard to the desirability of having the service franchise extended. If these intelligent peasants are entitled to elect Members of Parliament who are to deal with the greatest interests of a large section of the human race, surely they may be regarded as entitled to vote in the election of County Councillors. The privilege is to be conferred on these people if they will voluntarily pay a rate. I cannot imagine it possible, even amongst so intelligent a people as those who will be admitted to vote by this franchise, there are many who will be willing to undergo the burden of paying a rate for the purpose of electing a County Councillor. The suggestion that they are men who 'have no stake in the country, has been well met by my right hon. Friend. The people who have the greatest stake in the proper carrying out of the government and laws of the country are the people who lose most when these laws are bad, and gain most when they are good—the poorer class of the community. With respect to the question of the police, it is a retrogressive step to take the control of the police at present enjoyed by towns of between 5,000 to 7,000 inhabitants, and place it in the hands of a General 866 Committee only partially representative. I trust the Members for Scotland will fight out on the floor of the House the battle which we fought out as best we could for London in respect to control of the police, resting their case on that true governing principle laid down by Lord John Russell that the control of the civil forces ought to be in the hands of popular representatives. The constitution of this Joint Committee is a very interesting matter. We had a Joint Committee constituted under the Bill of last year, and on the point there was a good deal of discussion. Our Joint Committee here in the capital have no control over the police whatever. As I understand the Joint Committee proposed to be constituted under this Bill, they will have the control of the police and will be constituted half from the elected authorities, and half from the Commissioners of Supply, who, after all, having regard to their constitution, can only be regarded as an accidental body. I cannot see why a Committee of these County Councils in Scotland, with a Convener instead of the Sheriff at their head, should not be able to control the police as well as the local bodies in small Scotch burghs. I hope this point will be contested, and that the result will be that they will get this power not only in the interests of Scotland, but because I think the example set by Scotland in this and other Scotch matters cannot fail to react beneficially upon us here. With respect to the Joint Committee itself, there is, I find, a very large body of opinion outside that it might very well be omitted, that it need not be constituted at all. As a matter of fact, the County Council will be well qualified to discharge the functions of controlling the police, and the finances of the County for the purpose which appear to be the only two duties this body is to be constituted and carry out. With respect to the Commissioners of Supply, I may say that many of them are looking foward to finding their occupation gone and desire to put an end to their own official existence and to be elected to the County Council. The Bill does not touch the question of licensing. That I know is a thorny and difficult question. It has been asked why could not a Committee of the Council deal with licenses. I do not see why, following 867 the system of elected bailies in Scotland, you might not make the whole of the Members of the County Council, Justices of the Peace, and so solve the licensing question at once. Whether that suggestion is a practical one or not there can, I think, be no doubt that the ultimate solution of the licensing question will be found here as in America, to leave every local area—and the county may well form such an area—to decide the matter for itself. There are some other points in the Bill to which I might call attention, having taken much interest in the development of local government, and having watched the—as I think—great success which had attended the Act passed last year, and I am extremely gratified to find so many of the methods so much of the principle of that Act incorporated in the measure now before the House. I am still more gratified to find that great principles which have been largely advocated on public platforms, are embodied in the measure before us. I believe the necessity for embodying them in the Bill, is the necessity that arises from the high average intelligence of the people with whom this Bill has to deal, and when this Bill leaves the House moulded by the representatives of the people of Scotland, I cannot doubt that it will prove for that country, as the previous Bill has proved for England. a very great benefit, and that it will develop local life and local government, and be a final advantage to the whole nation.
§ SIR ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL (Renfrew, W.)
I must congratulate the Government upon the Bill they have introduced into the House, and, having some practical knowledge of local government in my own county, I may perhaps be allowed to speak on some of the points involved. I must say for myself that for a long time I have been in favour of doing away with the existing system of Commissioners of Supply and raising the whole of the rating from owner and occupier. That would certainly clear the ground very much for a local government scheme, but at the same time I must bow to the superior wisdom of the Government, and there is no doubt that the Bill they have introduced is drawn in a masterly manner, and that it will be acceptable to the people of Scotland. With regard to the 868 Commissioners of Supply, I think it would be a good thing to keep them in their position for certain purposes, and only to repeal that part of the Act which deals with their powers of rating. It would be an advantage for them still to look after the income tax, as there is a considerable amount of jealousy amongst manufacturers about their affairs being interfered with by those who may be said to be in the same position as themselves. With regard to stereotyping the rates, there are many counties which have paid large sums of money for various things, and I do not think it would be fair to stereotype a rate which is for general purposes, and which includes a heavy expenditure. During the last ten years there has been in my county an extra rate varying from ½d to 1d. We have out of that built new Sheriff Courts, and we are now engaged in building a new police station and new county buildings. I do not think it would be fair to stereotype this extra rate. I think it would be well to give powers to the Sheriff to discern between the actual expenditure and the ordinary expenditure, and to stereotype only that expenditure which is needed for carrying out the general purposes of the county. I think also that the amount produced by the rate at the present time, and not the rate itself should be stereotyped. In Renfrewshire I think we shall, perhaps in a year or a year and a half be deprived of a large portion of the most valuable part of the county through an increase of the Glasgow boundaries. How then will the rate be apportioned? I think some provisions should be made in the Bill for that eventuality. I was exceedingly glad to hear from my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) the explanation he gave with regard to the amount to be given towards free education. I am gratified that the efforts I myself made to point out to the Government the necessity of giving this surplus money in aid of education rather than of spreading it over an area where it would not be felt by so many people who are as desirous and as deserving of it as many of the poor in Scotland, has been so successful. At the same time I must acknowledge with thanks the work done by other hon. Gentlemen in the same direction. As far as I understand, £155,000 will he given for the purpose of paying all the 869 school fees in State-aided schools, national and otherwise up to the Third Standard, and a further sum will be devoted to the payment of fees for higher education on the recommendation of the School Boards. I think that is an admirable arrangement. I wish the sum had been larger, but we must cut our coat according to our cloth. We must be thankful for small mercies. I think the people of Scotland will consider this a great feature in the Bill, and will do their utmost to carry out the provisions for the benefit of the country generally. And I trust that this House in dealing with the matter will do its utmost to improve the Bill. One other question remains upon which I should like to say a word. At the present moment in Scotland we are rather proud of the manner in which we have been able to carry out our local arrangements, and I hope, therefore, that on the final modelling of this measure the precedent of the English Act will not be too rigidly adhered to. There are a good many things in the English Act that are foreign to Scotland, and I therefore think we ought to work as much as possible on the sense of our own people, having regard to what has been the position of local government in Scotland up to this time. I wish I could see a way out of the difficulty as to the service franchise, to which question I have devoted some attention. There is much to be said for making local rates felt personally by every man. On the other hand, theoretically, those who receive their houses as part of their wages are paying towards the rates and the up-keep of the county. Is it possible, under the circumstances, to stereotype the rate to be paid by the service franchise holders, and, if the rate rises higher, then call upon them to pay? We should endeavour in whatever we do to reduce the registration to as simple a form as possible. We have a considerable amount to pay for registration, and if we are to have a supplementary register as well it will largely add to the burden. The owners, who are 25 per cent of the whole of the ratepayers of the county, at present have to pay for the whole registration, but if any fresh registration is necessary it should be placed on the shoulders of the county ratepayers, 870 owners and occupiers equally. I hope the Bill will receive due consideration. The Government have done their best to prepare a scheme which will meet with the approval of the Scottish people, and at the same time to safeguard these interests which it is necessary in the interest of the country to protect.
§ MR. CAMERON CORBETT (Glasgow, Tradeston)
I agree with the hon. Baronet in thinking that the people of Scotland welcome this Bill as an honest attempt to deal as efficiently with the County Government in Scotland as in the past Municipal Government has been dealt with by means of the Town Councils. Amongst the points in the Bill which has been especially dealt with to-night is the service franchise. Well, I, for one, believe that the Government have adopted in the counties the very widest franchise they could possibly have taken compatible with fairness and common sense. Considering that in a large number of counties these men voting under the service franchise would be a majority of the whole electorate, we should have a body unable to consider very judicially questions involving the expenditure of the rates. I cannot help feeling that the duties of the County Councils will be in a very large measure financial duties. At every turn they will have to consider whether or not the expenditure it is proposed to incur on improvements will be compensated by the advantages of those improvements. There will constantly be a comparison to be drawn between the disadvantage of the rate to be paid on the one hand and the public advantage of a proposed improvement on the other, and I cannot help thinking that a body like the service franchise holders would be a body who, without having a share in the burden imposed, would be gainers by increased expenditure. A body benefiting from an expenditure which bearing no share of the cost is hardly a body capable of judicially pronouncing on the wisdom of that expenditure. I regret that in regard to the Convener of the Council a system has been adopted which is not Scotch in its character. The plan of allowing a County Council to elect a Convener from outside its own ranks will, I venture to think, be held in Scotland to savour too much of the aldermanic system. We in 871 our Scotch Town Councils have found great advantage in the fact that whenever a man—even if he happens to be outside the Council—is singled out by the respect in which he is held by his fellow citizens for the position of Provost, he has to go through the ordeal of election to the Town Council, and has to gain some experience of the working of the Council before he is called on to preside over its deliberations. I think it would be no less an advantage to require those who aspire to be Conveners of the County Council to acquire similar experience in the first instance. And now I come to, perhaps, the most debated question in connection with this matter, and that is the question as to the control of the County Police. I for one think that the Government has adopted an extremely wise plan. I entirely differ from those who hold that an elected County Council should have entire control over the police of the county. I know that from a theoretical point of view something may be said for this. It may be said that it is desirable in this matter that the counties should be exactly assimilated to the boroughs, but when we look at it from a practical point of view the first question which it appears to me we have to ask is, what is the main duty which the police have to discharge. Is it their main duty to carry out the regulations of the County Council, or is it their main duty to enforce the laws of the Imperial Parliament? If it be their main duty to enforce the laws of the Imperial Parliament, then it seems to me that the first question we have to ask is, what administration of the police will most effectually conduce to the laws of Parliament being carried out. I am prepared to admit that the ground on which I support this position is the great difficulty that might arise in certain crofter counties, on account of the agrarian question. I believe that in many of the crofter counties there is a widespread feeling that the police ought not to assist in evictions, or, as the people say, ought not to assist in collecting the landlords' rent. This error arises from their thinking that the police do in their case what they do not do elsewhere. They overlook the fact that if a man takes another's property—say his umbrella—the police enforce its restoration. But I am not con- 872 tent with the argument from such an. analogy. I wish to bring before the House the absolute absurdity of the position in which we should be left supposing the view to which I have alluded should be assented to. The result would be that the police would be obliged to protect the tenant in his holding,in which case the landlord would get no rent whatever, while the tenant would be supported in the peaceful occupation of the holding of which he would enjoy all the benefits while paying nothing. If you create a system of that sort you will be handing over to the tenants the whole of the benefits, derivable from the land occupied and taking away from the landlord the whole of the advantages he ought to enjoy as owner of the property. With reference to the finances of this scheme I feel assured that the Scotch people generally will not only rejoice that the large amount of £171,000 is going to the relief of school fees, but will specially rejoice at the manner in which the money is to be applied. No form of relief could be more satisfactory than that which gives free education in the first, second, and third standards, and what is done beyond this grant is of very great importance, because those who cannot pay the fees in the higher standards are to be relieved of the odious obligation of going to the Parochial Authorities to get the fees paid. No one taking an interest in philanthropic movements in Scotland can have failed to notice that this application to the Parochial Authorities for relief from school fees has often led to people being pauperised who would not otherwise have gone upon the Poors Rate. Having been led to obtain this form of relief they have the less hesitation in applying for it for other purposes. With regard to the grant of £30,000 for the reduction of rates in the Highlands, I think there will be a very unfavourable opinion in regard to that proposal throughout most parts of Scotland. If a grant of this sort were the best form of relieving the extreme proverty of the Highlands, I think the general feeling in Scotland would be that the expenditure ought to be made out of the Imperial taxation and not from a purely Scotch fund. There are other purposes to which this £30,000 873 might be applied. It might be applied to giving further relief of school fees or local rates all over Scotland, that there is a strong claim to further relief from local rates is clear. The amount to be given to the Local Authorities is only equal to the grant Scotland formerly enjoyed; but there is this difference—the old grants were constantly increasing and the expenditure was constantly advancing, whereas the new revenue to be handed over will be a constantly contracting amount. But notwithstanding my criticisms on the proposals of the Government, I think that, on the whole, we have to thank them for a measure at once so broad, so bold, and so liberal in character. I, for one, feel that the advantages of such a measure cannot be weighed by the mere improvements that may take place in the business management of county affairs. It seems to me that the advantage is far greater and of far more national importance than a mere administrative advantage of this sort. The chief gain we make is this: that our people will be able to learn political lessons, which may often be best learnt when experiments are tried in their own immediate neighbourhoods. I cannot but feel that every measure of this sort by which we extend local self-government in our counties is adding to the security of our Empire by promoting the education and increasing the ability for government of those masses of the people on whom the safety and prosperity of the Empire depend.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I had no intention of taking part in this debate, which is practically a Committee stage debate, and not a debate on the Second Reading of the Bill before the House; but I think 1 may be permitted to say a word or two on the financial aspects of the measure. There will not be much interest taken in it in Scotland unless it is materially modified, and increased power given to the County Councils. If this be not done, instead of being beneficial to Scotland, the Bill will be the reverse. It is proposed to put an end to the Commissioners of Supply. Now, I assert that the Commissioners of Supply, have, unlike the Irish Grand Juries, never been accused of anything like jobbery. On the contrary, they have performed their functions well and economically, and I hardly think it likely that the new body will be either 874 so moderate or so economical. If you want to have, as we ought to have, full control in the counties as we now have in the burghs, give us something in the shape of local government that is worth having, and do not throw us a skeleton for us to clothe. If the Bill is to be worth anything it can only be made so by increasing the powers of the County Council. You ought to attach the administration of the Poor Law and national elementary education to the functions of the County Councils. All the rating bodies ought to be in the County Councils and Divisional Committees, and in that way we might have something like uniform rating, instead of having a twopenny rate in one parish and a six-and-eightpenny rate in another. In the northern counties you ought to give the County Councils powers as to fish harbours and piers and tramways, and other means of developing the resources of the country. If you give powers of this kind you will add very much to the value of the County Councils. I think, moreover, that the Lord Advocate might have considered the whole question of the Highlands, and should have separated the Highland portions of the counties into counties or districts of their own. Until you do that there will be little chance of the Highlands being properly represented in the Councils. At the present time the Highlands are very badly treated. There is no exception to this in my own county. There is the Isle of Stroma attached to the county of Caithness, and although the people there have been paying road-rates for a number of years, not a single road has been made or supported by those rates on the whole island. There are 300 ratepayers on that island, all of whom are compelled to pay those rates, and there are no roads whatever except the pathways the people have made for themselves. There was one very important point introduced by the right hon-Gentleman the Member for the Stirling. burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) who suggested, on behalf of the Liberal Party, a measure of a much more reactionary character than the Tories dare put forward. In fact, the Government measure is much more liberal than the one suggested by the right hon. Gentleman. He proposed that the burden which until now has been placed on 875 land should be transferred—that is to say, that half should rest on land and the other half on the occupier. The proposal of the Government is that you should take an average of five years, and then stereotype it upon the land. You are to follow the lines of the Act of 1845 with regard to the poor rates, and the lines of the Act of 1872 with regard to Education. Until those years the burdens were upon the land; then one half was placed on the occupier, and one half on the landlord. The Act of 1872 placed the charge for education, which had hitherto been on the landlord, on the unfortunate occupier. Now, my hon. Friend objects that you are again carrying out that course by placing one-half at once on the occupier, of course covering the existing leases. But then there are a great many year-to-year tenancies, and these individuals would not have their rents reduced by the extra rate put on. I think the wisest course would be to allow the rate to remain still upon the landlord. The Lord Advocate laughs at that idea. Well, I do not, because ultimately the rate will come upon the landlord. I think it would be unfair, it would be a fraud upon the ratepayers to take the burden from one class and to place it upon another, without giving them compensation. It would be relieving the landlords at the expense of the tenants. One by one all the burdens of the land have been placed upon the tenants, and we are thinking of beginning to change it. I see the right hon. Gentleman wishes to continue the bad old plan. The question of the police has been raised, and the Secretary for Ireland has frankly stated they are taking the power of the police from the County Council, and placing it in the hands of an absolute majority, composed of the Sheriff of the County, and a number of the Commissioners of Supply. As far as the crofters, are concerned I think such a course is wholly unwarranted. The fact of the matter is, in no country in the world does the policeman occupy the same position as the policeman in the Highland country. He is looked upon there as the friend of the people generally. As far as the crofters are concerned, there is very little work for the policemen to do. In the crofter districts the policeman occupies a position unparalleled; he is municipal 876 officer, judge, jury, and executioner. There is no place in the world where the sympathy is so great between the police and the people as in the crofter districts. But the proposed change would be rather a serious matter. Take my own county, for instance. You are going to take away the powers of the three boroughs. There is the Town Council, there is the Royal burgh of Wick, which for centuries has had its own police, there is the Parliamentary police borough, for which there is a special. Act, and there are also the Police Commissioners of Thurso. These authorities will cease, and I am rather afraid there may be friction when the new police authorities are established. I am not apt to advocate anything on Conservative lines, but I think that the case of. some of the old burghs of Scotland, which have had control of their police for centuries, might be considered. Of course, if the new proposal has efficiency and economy to recommend it, then it may be defensible. But there are other points on which I should like to say a word or two. The first proposal is to stereotype this £30,000 for the relief of the local. taxation of the Highlands and Islands. As representative of a constituency about to be favoured by you, I strongly oppose that proposal. I trust that the £30,000 will follow the other sum, and go to make the Fifth Standard free. If you are to have education free, apply it to all the standards, and then you will benefit the crofters. By the present system you do not benefit them, but I will tell you whom you do benefit—the landlords and the lessees of deer forests and the tenants of shooting farms. These are classes of men with whom I have little sympathy, and whom I do not want to benefit in the slightest degree. Now take an illustration of my own. I bring before you the facts of a Royal Commission composed of landlords, and they have given in their Report on the highlands and islands. Now, take two parishes in Sutherland-shire, two in Invernessshire, and one in Rosshire, as typical of the highlands. Of those four parishes the rental was roughly £29,954. Of that amount £19,333 was paid by 51 tenants—15 of them being tenants of deer forests, and. 36 of them shooting lessees. The remainder of the £29,000 was paid by 877 the increases and other ratable value, the crofters, 2,090 in number, paying £7,800. So that practically the crofters pay one quarter and the others three-quarters, and the advantage goes, therefore, to the large farmers and shooting tenants. If it had been reversed and the crofters had got three-quarters, I might have supported your proposal, but the crofter only gets 6d. to every 2s. the others obtain. It would suit the crofter very much better not to have to pay the school rate, and he would have been very much more benefited had you freed education to a greater extent. As to one or two other points, I think when once you permit School Boards to teach dogmatic theology, and allow the catechism to be taught, there is no reason why the Roman Catholics or the Episcopalian[...] should not have their catechism taught. I for one should be glad if the Scotch people could be taught a little consistency on this point, and should any constituency turn me away for the views I hold on this subject, well then they must turn me away. We will be able in Committee to eliminate from this Bill its Conservative elements, and make it, as many Conservative Bills have been made by Radicals in this House, a fairly workable measure.
§ * SIR ARCHIBALD ORR EWING (Dumbarton)
I rise for the purpose of expressing satisfaction with the remarks of the hon. Gentleman (Dr. Clark) upon the Commissioners of Supply. But I must confess that the end of his speech was not so pleasant as the beginning. He differed very much from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) who began in a high falutin style about this being a skeleton of a Bill, which would require to be filled up to be made useful. But there was nothing outrageous in his proposals, except that a married woman should have the same power as her husband in voting for the Council. Dual control has not succeeded in Ireland, and I do not think it will succeed in Scotland. With many points of the right hon. Gentleman's speech I agree. I think when we are doing so much for education, we might do more. Here is £170,000 coming from the Imperial Revenue. What makes it more sacred than if it were contributed from the rates? If this money were put into a general fund it would save the rates, but being abstracted from the general 878 fund it increases the rates. I feel inclined, now we have adopted this principle (to which I have hitherto been opposed, because it was intended to be confined to schools under the School Boards) to go further. Denominational schools were not to receive a portion of this money. I oppose that on principle, for it would be most unjust to the Episcopalians and the Roman Catholics that their schools should not share merely because they are not supported by the rates. If you are going to introduce this great system, which I believe will be of very great benefit to the country, if you desire to make it most truly and generally beneficial, we must not stop in this half-way course, but go the whole hog. Mr. Speaker, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) that we should make a distinction in the county assessments. At present the landlords pay all the rates; and it is proposed that we should stereotype the rates upon them for the last five years, and that anything expended beyond should be paid jointly by the tenants and landlords. Well, there seems to be some amount of fairness in that, but I would like to point out to you the circumstances of Dumbartonshire. The rate of that county for present purposes is 2¾d. Supposing there is an increase of ¼d., you charge the eighth of a penny. Is it worth the trouble of collection? Could we not do it in the manner suggested by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) and maintain the great principle that taxation should go with representations, making the tenant pay one half, but giving him the power to claim from the landlord that portion until his lease is out. Just now we are invoking a new principle, of which many improper uses may be made. I must say that I hold by the principle which has been announced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirlingshire, and I hope the Government will take into consideration the suggestion he has made. But my principal object in speaking to-night is with reference to my own county. I congratulate the Lord Advocate on the way in which his Bill has been received at meetings of Commissioners of Supply throughout Scotland, but I must say that the County of Dumbarton in his Bill seems to be 879 badly treated. In the 14th Clause there is power given to the Commissioners to make such alterations in the boundaries of the parishes as they may think fit. Well, the county I represent may be in a very peculiar position. Some 400 years ago the parishes of Kirkintilloch and Cumbernauld were, by the influence of a noble Lord, taken from Stirlingshire and added to Dumbartonshire, from which they were four miles separated, merely because that noble Lord wished to be under one sheriffdom. But in lieu of these two parishes, seven parishes were taken from Dumbartonshire and added to Stirlingshire. These are the parishes of Fintry, Balfron, Killearn, Drymen, Buchanan, Strathblane, and Campsie. Now, it is not to be denied that these very parishes were contiguous to Stirlingshire, and come under the operation of this Bill, and, therefore, there will be no power on the part of the Commissioners to give to Dumbartonshire what belonged to it 400 years ago. In 1503, the Scottish Parliament bestowed upon Dumbartonshire these seven parishes and took away the two. But unfortunately in 1509 Parliament repealed the Act of 1503, and since that time we have been as we are. What I say is, that if we are to lose those two parishes, taking away a fourth part of the population and an 18th part of the assessment, certainly the Lord Advocate ought to do us the justice of restoring to us the seven parishes given to us in 1503, in lieu of the two parishes taken away from us.
§ * MR. D. CRAWFORD (Lanark, North East)
I confess, the more I study these Bills, and listen to the speeches by which they are explained and defended on the Government side of the House, the more my own mind tends to dwell on the shadowy side of the picture, and I desire to say something to bring out the great shortcomings and defects in the scheme which has been laid before us. No doubt, we may congratulate ourselves that the Government has at last approached this subject in a serious spirit, and to a certain extent on comprehensive lines. It so happens that in the social and political history of Scotland the burghs have received necessary reforms, in a much larger degree than the country districts have done. For a long time the government of the rural 880 districts was in the hands of the landed gentry. Under the circumstances of those times it was perfectly natural and right that it should be so, and, speaking generally, I think the people of Scotland will admit that they have done their duty faithfully and well. As towns grew within the bounds of the county, municipal privileges were freely accorded to them, and that from very early times. Whenever a considerable town arose, it was either by Charter or otherwise, erected into a burgh of one kind or another, and in later times obtained a private Act of Parliament, while lastly there came the Police Acts, which afforded facilities for the inhabitants of towns associating themselves together to obtain the degree of municipal government they required. But the counties have been left somewhat in the background, and I am glad the Government have at length reconsidered the necessity of introducing some principle of reform into their administration also. It is true that this is not the first step in that direction. For example the Education Act was an admission of the principle that the schools should not be left under the control of the heritors and the Church, but that they should be placed under School Boards elected on a popular basis. The Royal Act of 1878 also altered the administration of roads, which was to a very large extent popularized; while now, to complete the scheme, the present Bill is laid before us, claiming to be a thorough and a comprehensive measure for dealing with the subject. I remember that the Lord Advocate, in his able and lucid speech in introducing this Bill, laid down three conditions which a scheme of this kind ought to fulfil. He said it ought to be distinctively Scotch; he claimed that the scheme, whatever other merits or defects it had, would be found to be logical and coherent, and he deprecated that a subject of this kind should be dealt with piecemeal, contending that it ought to be thought out from beginning to end. Now, Sir, I think it must have been the rhetorical dexterity of the Lord Advocate's which led him to lay down these conditions, and to claim that they had been fulfilled. They are, indeed, most reasonable conditions, but in every one of them I think I shall be able to shew that this Bill is conspicuously deficient. It is not 881 distinctively Scotch, for some of its best and some of its worst points are obviously borrowed from the English measure. We should never have heard of the device of a Joint Committee of the Commissioners of Supply, and the County Council, if it had not been invented by the ingenuity of the President of the Local Government Board. On the other hand, if you come to the merits of the Bill, I very much question whether we should have had under all the circumstances of the case, the popular franchise on which the County Council is rested, had it not been that the precedent of the English Bill was one which the Government could not resist. Therefore I say that the Bill is not distinctively Scotch. I think I shall also be able to show that it very unfortunately fails in comprehensiveness in dealing with the whole subject. It also conspicuously fails in being neither logical nor coherent. It would not I think have been difficult to make the Local Government Bill for Scotland a much more satisfactory measure than it is. The difficulties which exist in England have practically been utilized as an excuse for the defects of this Bill, whereas these difficulties do not exist in Scotland, or do not exist to nearly the same extent. The main difficulties in England for producing a complete Bill are such as these—that you have Local Authorities like the Unions and the Local Government Board Districts, which overlap each other, and also overlap the boundaries of the counties, and do not even cover the whole area and extent of the counties. Now, in Scotland we have no divisions of that kind. We have only two well understood and historical divisions to deal with—the county and the parish. I apprehend that if this task had been gone about on right principles there would not have been any insuperable difficulty in forming a scheme which would have combined in a satisfactory manner all the local government functions both of the country and the parish. Now, Sir, when you read the clauses of the Bill you will find that it hardly pretends to be a Local Government Bill. What it pretends to be is a County Government Bill, and in Scotland that is a very different thing. There, as in many other places, the functions of Local Government are divided and dis- 882 tributed into two areas—one large and one smaller—one being the parish and the other the county. That is a position which exists in a great many other countries. It exists in America, where in various States they have the functions of the township and also of the county. In some of the States the principle duties of the Local Government are done in the township, which may be compared to the parish; in other States they are done in the county. In Scotland it happens that the greater part of the Local Government is done not in the counties, but in the parishes. In the parishes we deal with education; in the parishes we deal with the affairs of the poor; in the area of the county we deal with the subjects of police and justice—of course I do not forget that it is only the administrative functions of County Government that are treated in this Bill. Now, Sir, I am willing to apply any standard of Government you may think fit to test whether the most importance part of the work of Local Government in Scotland is done in the area of the county or the area of the parish. and I contend that, whatever standard is applied, it will be found that the most important part of Scotch Local Government is at the present time carried out in the parish. I say that, not in the least desiring that this should be a Parish Bill, instead of being, as it is, a County Bill. But it ought to be a Bill which honestly and fairly embraces the whole county and the parish, and which dovetails the duties of the parish into those of the county, and so produces a much more symmetrical and useful whole. Take the standard of money. If you add together both the County Rate proper and the Police Rate, it may be fair on an average to state in at 3d. in the pound instead of—as the hon. Member for Dumbarton stated it—at only 2¾d. I put it ad 3d. in the pound, whereas the whole county in Scotland probably approach the sum of 3s. I have not yet obtained the detailed Return which I moved for, and therefore an not in a position to give the House a precise idea in money of the comparative importance of the functions dealt with in this Bill. In addition to that you have the road rates which you may put at about 6d. in 883 the pound, and thus you have 3d. and 6d.—together 9d.—raised in the area of the county as compared with a total of nearly 3s. Again, while the objects to which the county rates are applied are no doubt matters of importance and utility, they certainly, if we may judge of the interest that is taken in them in many counties, are not to be compared in public importance to such subjects as education and the care of the poor; there are many counties in which representatives of the tenants for road purposes can hardly be got to take the trouble to fulfil their share in the business at all. If we take the standard of time, the tax on the time of Members of School Boards and Parochial Boards and compare that with the time spent by the Commissioners of Supply, you will see that the time occupied by the former is very much greater. I will try yet another standard, and that is the interest taken in the business. The interest in the parish business is often very considerable in the rural districts, whereas the interest they take in the business conducted by the Commissioners of Supply and the Road Trustees is practically nothing at all. You may apply the same standard to the interest created by this Bill in the country. The people see that this is a Bill which only deals with roads and with the functions of the Commissioners of Supply; and I am bound to say that as far as my experience goes this Bill, which was described by the Secretary for Ireland as a great administrative revolution, is a measure which does not excite the very smallest interest in Scotland. Such, then, is the scope of the Bill as to which the Lord Advocate said that he deprecated a piece-meal dealing with this question. It is a Bill which he contends does not deal piece-meal with the subject, and yet it is confined, with a single exception, to the duties of the Commissioners of Supply and the Road Trustees, and makes only one excursion into a different sphere, and that we find in the Parochial Boards Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland, who defends this scheme, expressly based his defence of the Bill on the fact that the public opinion of Scotland would not have been satisfied if the parish, as well as the country, had not been dealt with. I 884 entirely demur to the idea that the Parochial Boards Bill in the least degree satisfies the demand of the country for a comprehensive general measure. In the first place, it is based on an entirely vicious principle. It introduces a franchise of a new kind—namely, the election of a body partly by owners and partly by occupiers, and it only covers a certain portion of the duties that are performed in the parishes, while it takes no account whatever of the equally important functions of education. Now, Sir, before I pass to the ideas as to this Bill which we on this side of the House would desire to see carried out. I propose to refer for a moment to the manner in which the business of the county, small as it is, is to be dealt with by this Bill. The functions of the Commissioners of Supply are transferred to the new County Councils, and at first sight we might have thought this was a thoroughly liberal and progressive measure. But when we look into the question we see that the only duties of any considerable importance discharged by the Commissioners of Supply are the control of the police and the incurring of capital expenditure, and, instead of those important powers being frankly handed over to the County Councils and Commissioners of Supply, are kept up in a Joint Committee for those two purposes. No doubt the rates in regard to police and capital expenditure are paid by owners exclusively, but I, for one, have not the smallest objection to those rates being divided, on condition that the Commissioners of Supply disappear. It is a great mistake to suppose that at present the rates are paid by the persons who have the government of the county in their hands. The want of representation on the part of the feuars is an evil which is increasing every day. A man requires to have a house valued. at £200 before he has any say whatever in the disposal of the money supposed to be paid by the owners. In a village like Both well, in my own constituency, you find numbers of good houses inhabited by respectable people, but not one of the houses is valued at £200 a year, and therefore not one of the owners has a word to say in the County Government of Lanarkshire. However, I say by all means let us divide the rate, on condition that you 885 get rid of the Commissioners of Supply. But this question of the police is one of principle far exceeding in importance the mere question of the money involved. In the Scottish burghs, where you nave thoroughly democratic constituencies, the police are governed and administered by the ratepayers with the most perfect satisfaction to all the inhabitants and with the best results to public security. I entirely repudiate the idea put forward by the Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Balfour) that the question of police stands in this respect on a different footing to the other public interests entrusted to these bodies. The question of public health is no less a matter of Imperial interest than the question of police administration; and so is the education question, the administration of which you entrust to popularly-elected bodies. I may be asked in what direction I should have gone in dealing with the question of Local Government. Well, Sir, I should have begun with the parish. I think the Government are bound to take the parish into account in a very different sense than they are doing, by proposing to establish Parochial Boards with a franchise which dissociates and dissevers the parish from the rest of the economy of the county. If you had one franchise for both the parish and the county you would find it easy to draft a scheme rising from the lower grade of the parish to the higher grade of the county. It would then be unnecessary to create separate bodies for dealing with capital and expenditure. The questions of education and the poor might be left to the parish, and a certain check might be put upon parochial expenditure by imposing the necessity of referring questions of borrowing to the County Council. In the same way I should be perfectly willing to put a strict limit on the borrowing powers of the County Council itself. The check, however, ought not to be the creation of another body, but the supervision of a proper authority. If you had this gradation from the parish to the county you could have an authority within the boundaries of the county competent both to deal with primary education and with technical and higher education. There might possibly be an appeal to the County Council in such questions as the dismissal of a schoolmaster, and the Council 886 might also have power to extend the area of rating where it was thought necessary. I agree also with my right hon. Friend that the question of the administration of justice ought not to be excluded from this Bill. The powers of the Scottish Justices in civil and criminal cases are of a most limited kind, whilst their powers in licensing cases are of a kind which excites a very serious and deep interest in the counties. Why should not the model of the burgh have been followed in this matter? I should be sorry to say anything which would detract from the dignity of the office of Justice of the Peace, but I submit that if those Magistrates were elected from the large area of the County Council by their fellow citzens to discharge similar judicial duties to those now exercised by the Justices and by the Magistrates of burghs and at the same time to exercise the power of licensing, their dignity would be at least equal to that of the present Justices of the Peace, and we should be as likely to get the best men for the work. In our present system of Local Government in Scotland there is no function that excites more interest than that of licensing, and I think the Government have shown an unfortunate timidity in not dealing with the subject. I should have liked to see the plan of representative Local Government adopted in this matter of licensing. If it is not, a much more extreme remedy is certain to be adopted before long. I do not think we have had time to consider the proposals respecting free education which the Government have disclosed to-night. I confess, on a cursory consideration of them, I see no reason for stopping at the three elementary standards, and I see very considerable danger in making the higher standards a matter of eleemosynary favour on the part of the managers. That objection appears to be particularly strong when we see that if the whole of the Probate Duty were given, it would be enough to wipe out this invidious difference, and to give free education all round. I may say I am far from being insensible to the very great importance of establishing a County Council upon a popular franchise; but I think the proposal is spoilt by the exclusion of those who are qualified by the service franchise. It would 887 not be difficult to show that in one shape or another the rates press upon the means of subsistence of the labourers, who vote in virtue of the service franchise, as well as upon other citizens. I am not insensible either to the importance of the principle of free education, which we on this side of the House have earnestly advocated for some years. I trust the opportunity will be taken of improving the Bill in other respects. I think our objections go deep, and that the more consideration that is given to the measure in the country, the greater will be the disappointment if this is not made a really comprehensive Bill, and one likely to have some reasonable degree of finality. I believe it is still quite possible to remedy the greater part of the defects of the Bill. A few strokes of the pen would do away with those Commissioners of Supply, who my right hon. Friend knows very well cannot survive for many years. Is it wise to keep up such an excrescence as a target for agitation, and as a source for discontent in an administrative measure of this kind? In the same way it would also be easy to establish your Parochial Council on a similar franchise as your County Council, and to confer upon it the other duties which belong to parishes—the control of education as well as the care of the poor. If that were done, the other links which would connect the parish with the Council would be sure to follow. We have seen most admirable examples of the working of Local Government in the burghs of Scotland. Here we have an opportunity of applying the same principles on a wider field, and with still more varied interests and duties than can be found within the boundaries of a burgh. I am sure the men of the counties are equally well-fitted to perform the duties as the citizens of burghs. I must earnestly protest that the Bill in its present form is not distinctively Scotch, is not logical and coherent, and, above all, that it is eminently a Bill which deals with the subject in a piecemeal manner. I ask the House whether I have made good the indictment, which, if true, it is easy to put right. In any event, I hope that no considerations of mere antagonism will prevent the Government giving fair consideration to what we have advanced on this subject.
§ * MR. MARK STEWART (Kircudbright)
There are two Amendments on the Paper. The one standing in the name of the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Munro Ferguson) proposes to refer the Bill to a Committee of Scotch representatives. I certainly think that that is unnecessary, as to-night the Scotch Members may congratulate themselves that they have not been flooded out by English Members. The Scotch representatives have had the debate all to themselves, and judging from the appearance of the House now (10 o'clock) we are likely to continue in that happy condition until 12 o'clock. The second Amendment stands in the name of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken (Mr. D. Crawford), but which the hon. Member has not thought fit to press. The hon. Gentleman is accustomed to deal with subjects connected with burgh and municipal matters as a great authority, but we cannot congratulate him upon the view he has taken of this Bill. He appears to shrink from moving his Amendment. There are many points in that Amendment which I think worthy of consideration, but the hon. Gentleman did not make any complete protest in their favour. The hon. Member said that this was not a Local Government Bill, but a County Government Bill, and his main contention was that the rates which are imposed on property, to defray the expenses of a parish, are very much heavier than those imposed on a county. As illustrations he mentioned the education and poor rates. No doubt they are two heavy impositions, but the hon. Member forgets that the Government pay half the cost of the police, one-half the cost of the lunatic paupers, and a considerable grant in aid of medical relief, and he ignored all county assessment under the Contagious Diseases (Animal) Act. The hon. Member found great fault because the Commissioners of Supply are to be perpetuated. What is the real objection to this perpetuation? One of the objects of the Bill is to make the Joint Committee, which imposes the rate on the county, stronger than it otherwise would be. In addition to the seven Commissioners of Supply on the Joint Committee, you have four Commissioners of Supply told off to assist the County Councillors in their administrative work, and although this may operate somewhat hardly in some 889 counties which have not the advantage of permanent Chairmen, for example, as is the case in my county, a Chairman of roads will be found to work exceedingly well in the case of the majority of counties in beginning the work of the administration. From some points of view it might be an advantage to go outside and choose a man to act as Chairman; a fit person might be abroad, and so unable personally to contest a seat on the Council, or he might shrink from undergoing the arduous work entailed in a contest. The great objection to the speech of the hon. Member for North-East Lanark (Mr. Crawford) is that it did not attempt to give to the discussion that wide and comprehensive bearing which the Lord Advocate laid down when he introduced the Bill, and dealt with it on wide and comprehensive lines. He said it must be distinctly Scotch, and this I maintain it is, and that it must excite the popular interest. Judging from the interest which has been shown in it at every political meeting held in Scotland since the 9th of April, when it was introduced, I think it has proved of great popular interest to the whole country. On the whole, too, I think it must be admitted that the measure is coherent and logical; something may be left to be desired, but then you cannot drive six omnibuses abreast through Temple Bar, and if the Bill had been weighted with licensing, education and other matters, as some have suggested, it would be impossible to run the Bill through this Session. But now I hope, with the assistance of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, we shall get the Bill passed in a form that will be acceptable generally to the people of Scotland. I should like to say a word or two on points which have not, I think, been much alluded to. It is difficult in discussing a Bill of this kind to keep to a Second Reading Debate, and avoid going into details. There is a point in reference to the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act which I think ought to be cleared up at once. I think it is by Section 28 of this Bill that it is provided that burghs returning a Member to Parliament, or burghs forming part of a group returning a Member, are still to have their own Local Authority under the Act I have mentioned. This, I think, will be altered 890 when the Bill gets into Committee. In my own county, for instance, Kirkcudbright is a small burgh of 3,000 inhabitants, but inasmuch as it is one of a group that returns a Member, it would have a separate authority under the Contagious Diseases Animals Act, and thus might be a great hindrance to the carrying out of the Act effectually over the whole county. Then there is the greatest possible laxity in administering the Sanitary Acts and in the duties that should be performed by medical officers, and, unless in the administration of these Acts compulsory powers are given, in this respect the Bill will be so much waste paper. I may mention that in the creation of new officers there is much jealousy on the ground of increased expense, and I hope in Committee a rigorous scrutiny will be exercised in this matter. A word upon Clause 30—the clause to stereotype the county assessments on a five years' average. It is a clause that few people like, and I think it would be desirable to get rid of it, and I think the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannermann) is not an unwise one, dividing the assessment between occupier and proprietor, giving exceptions to tenants under lease, so that there may not be any old assessments imposed on them. It is but a small rate upon the whole of Scotland, and in my own County the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright would not on a five years' average exceed one penny and 1–86th of a penny, or 34–32nds of a penny in the £; but this is, I believe, the lowest in Scotland. This brings me to the service franchise. We know the great difficulty of collecting small sums from small ratepayers, and although I thoroughly believe in the principle laid down by the Government, that service franchise holders shall contribute to the rates, I am not sure that this, if it is a safeguard in 1889, would not be knocked off in 1890, and I am not at all sure that the Government will then have got rid of the difficulty. I shall hope to see this so amended in Committee that service franchise holders shall be able freely to exercise their power of voting. The question of audit is not mentioned in the Bill. It is an important matter, and I cannot help thinking that the auditor ought 891 to be appointed by the Government, and, in my opinion, it is very desirable that the auditor should have his headquarters in Edinburgh instead of London. There are many questions that would come before this official only interesting to select Members and Scotch Councillors, who are far more often in their native capital than in London, and it would be a distinct advantage that the auditor should have his offices in Edinburgh. It might cause a little difficulty, perhaps, to the Government in London, but it would simplify matters very much in the North. There is another very small matter, and I do not lay stress upon it because it is rather a matter of sentiment, and that is to make the date of meeting the 30th April, the date familiar to all Scotchmen in connection with the meetings of Commissioners of Supply. The education question is, without doubt, a very important question, and one that I have always looked at boldly, knowing that it must come up for decision; and I rather think I was the only Scotch Conservative Member who had the courage to give it a prominent place in the election addresses of 1885. I have long favoured the principle which the Government have recognized, and I thank them, for giving £171,000 to free education. But I do not want to stop there. So long as his child is compelled to pass through school before he can be allowed to earn his daily bread, a poor man has no cause to complain, but he has a fair cause for complaint when the obligation of payment is added. Free education will make education more popular. Our educational system comes short of success because of the growing repugnance among the poor, among the labouring class, to send their children to school. I can speak with experience from 1873 as Chairman of a large local School Board, having to provide for the education of some 600 children in an agricultural population, that there is the greatest difficulty in securing the regular attendance of children at school. We in our county spend much money in trying to do our duty, but we find ourselves helpless. It is only when we have a very strong case, indeed, that the Sheriff will support us, and this is soon found out by parents who avoid sending their children to school. I think Members who know the requirements of 892 the far North may rejoice at the Government proposal, but whatever opposition there may be to allocating £30,000 to the Highlands, I am sure we stand in need of assistance in the South, and if not wanted there as we have been told to night, by all means let us have it. If the Parliamentary register is taken absolutely as the basis of registration for County Council voting purposes, then you may have separate registers for School Boards, Parochial Boards, and County Councils, besides Parliamentary Elections, but in small areas it would be less expense to adopt the plan followed, I am told, in School Board elections of even large extent, by which the Inspector of Poor Law or the Returning Officer takes the valuation roll and ticks off upon that those persons who are on the School Board register. Of course, you may have the difficulty of finding the name you want on the valuation roll: and besides there may be a double qualification; but, considering that the elections are always held on one day throughout the county, I think that need not trouble us very much. Then, again, it is said to be a great stigma affixed to a man to be struck off the roll as a person who has not paid his rates, but ever since I can remember, it has been the practice to post a list of those who neglect to pay rates on the church doors, and I only wish this was regarded as a stigma, as we should not then see the same names appearing so often. If these Bills pass in their present form, you must have three separate registers for local purposes, and difficulties and expense will be greatly increased. To find the value of all the service occupiers houses, you must wade through the list of those who do not pay County rates, and you must also find out all the defaulters of poor rates for the Parochial Board Franchise. All these points will be thrashed out in Committee. If hon. Members do not get all they want in the Bill, neither can they expect all they want this year put into it. When the rates are consolidated matters will be much simplified. There are parochial matters in some parishes, such as drainage, gas and water supply, which it is objected should not be handed over to the control of the County Council as a petition from Girvan, which I hold in my hand, testifies; but, I maintain that though it 893 may seem hard to the locality, yet it is the best plan that can be devised, namely, making your County Council the Local Authority for all purposes, and uniting your smaller bodies to it, so making your legislation logical and coherent.
§ * MR. LYELL (Orkney and Shetland)
After the very clear statement we had from the Lord Advocate in introducing the Bills, the people of Scotland have had an unusually good opportunity of knowing what is before them, and of appreciating the Bills when they were published. Now, I have watched the attitude of the people of Scotland both in the county where I live and in the constituency I represent, and I may say the attitude has been that of perfect indifference and neglect, and a feeling of doubt is conspicuous as to whether it is worth while to alter existing arrangement to adopt a measure which effects so very few reforms. This attitude throughout the country is shared by the majority of Scotch Members. If we thought that the Bills represented the maximum of reform the present Government are willing to allow they would be rejected with scorn, and we would have nothing further to do with them, even if they passed; but the Bills are acceptable to us as a foundation upon which we hope to build up and establish a logical and consistent system of Local Government throughout Scotland. At the outset there are two great omissions from the Bill, omissions which have been noticed several times already, but are of such importance as to be insisted upon with a view to remedy. I refer to licensing and the necessity for further reform in dealing with the educational machinery of the country. We want in Scotland municipal reforms in counties as in towns. I only refer to education for a moment to say that I regard the great advantages which the larger burghs of Scotland possess in matters of education are due to the School Boards having control of a great number of schools where they are able to grade the scholars and so provide for elementary and higher education. I should like to see a measure of this kind entrusted to County Councils, general supervision in educational matters, and a power to restrict the number of superfluous offices the expense of which now falls on the county with no advantage to education. The most important duty that under the 894 Bill will devolve upon the new County Council will be the management of roads; in fact the new County Council will, to a great extent, be very little more than a glorified Road Board. According to the plan of the Government the Councils will be elected from single-member constituencies throughout the country, and they are to deal with matters that have hitherto been administered by bodies which practically represent landlords exclusively. They are to represent owners of property and occupiers jointly. Now, throughout the debate, on the introduction of the Bill, the point more especially alluded to by the Lord Advocate and referred to by the Chief Secretary to-night was the fact that throughout Scotland the local rates are equally divided between occupiers and owners, and the system of the Government was justified on that foundation. Here, in this Bill, with the system of single-member constituencies and a very extended franchise, we shall have County Councils comprised exclusively of members elected by occupiers. I have no doubt, myself, that in the county in which I live, these members will be chosen, in many cases, by the occupiers, not from their own ranks, but from the members of the Commission of Supply, who have great experience, and are the best men the electors could find to represent the interest of the county on the new County Council. But, I submit, it is a matter well worthy of consideration, whether on the ground of fairly representing the two interests, it might not be worth while to have two member constituencies sending two members, one elected by the owners and one by the occupiers. I do not think there would be any dislike to that on the part of the people of Scotland; it would be an elective board the people of Scotland are accustomed to see, and they would deal with the matter fairly, the expense falling upon both classes. There is another matter that may be worth consideration; it would save expense in carrying out the elections. Every three years there is to be an election, and the expense falls upon the county, but if the areas were made larger, with good organization the expense might be considerably dimiminished. At present there are too many elections in the county, and the expense of conducting them is a 895 burden I should be glad to see reduced. I think the system of electing in single-member constituencies would work perfectly well in the great majority of counties, and the best men would be put on the County Council, yet in some places it will work unfairly to the owners. In some of the Northern counties there are very few people eligible for the position of County Councillors holding the position of owners, and the representation will consist almost exclusively of occupiers. In exceptional counties—in Sutherland, for instance—owners could not record more than one or two votes, and will practically have no representative on the Council. The principle of double members has been conceded by the Government, and I cannot for the life of me conceive why, having admitted the principle in connection with the Parochial Board elections, it should not be applied to County Councils where it is more defensible. In the matter of Parochial Boards, what we really want is a thoroughly improved School Board which will deal with the double matter—education in the parish and the administration of the Poor Law. A School Board elected on a wide franchise would recommend itself to the parish. When the Lord Advocate introduced these Bills he said half of the Parochial Boards would be elected by the owners and the other part by occupiers, and the reasons upon which he urged that are far more applicable to the county than the parish. Practical details in connection with this subject can be dealt with in the framing of the Valuation Roll. In that Roll in Scotland we have the name of the tenant and the owner and the amount of the rent paid, and that should be sufficient for all purposes. It ought to be made a thoroughly simple and useful Roll for all elections—Parliamentary, County Council, and School Board. I should like to see the one register for all these purposes. Of course, if we were to have owners and occupiers elected to the County Council, many of the difficulties urged on the other side about the retention of the Commissioners of Supply on the County Council to manage the police would disappear. There can be no doubt that if we had half the Council elected by owners and half elected by occupiers a proper Committee would be formed to deal with the police and other 896 matters that the Government are unwilling to trust to the holders of the service franchise. It is proposed in the Bill to extend the franchise to all the householders, provided they are willing to pay their share of the county rate. But I notice that the first election is to take place in December, and that the clauses which especially guard this subject are not to come into operation until next year. There would, therefore, be nothing to prevent any ploughman in the service of a farmer from professing his willingness to become an elector now, and perhaps next year declining to pay his rate on going away, and never being heard of again. As to the Commissioners of Supply, so far as I know, their desire is to be abolished altogether. It will be absurd to retain them for the sole purpose of supplying seven members to sit with seven members of the County Council. I do not think the Commissioners will think it reasonable that they should be summoned once a year to sit on a Board that has no other earthly object than to select these seven members. They will not care to attend, and the result will be that the nomination of the seven will rest in the hands of one or two wire-pullers. When the Bill was introduced the Lord Advocate for the purpose of conciliating Scottish opinion brought out with a great flourish of trumpets that the Chairman was to enjoy the time-honoured name of "Convener of the County." I should imagine that the name could be applicable to the Chairman of the new Council, provided the old Convener of the County, the Chairman of the Commissioners of Supply were done away with. But that is not to be the case, and we are to have two of these Conveners. If the Lord Advocate will consent to abolish the Commissioners of Supply we shall have the one Convener of the County, the Chairman of the County Council, who, I hope, will be elected from the body of the County Council, and will not be a spurious, exotic, alderman imported from goodness knows where. As to the stereotyping of the County Rate I agree with the observation made that it would be desirable to fix the amount but not fix the rate. But this is a small matter, the amount varying from 2d. or 3d. downwards. I think the proposals of the right. hon. Gentleman (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) that the County Rate, 897 small as it is, should be divided between owners and occupiers, and that the occupier during existing leases should receive relief from his owner to the amount of that rate meets with general acceptance. It is desirable that the Scotch Members should express a decided opinion on this question of stereotyping the County Rate. Part of the rate consists of money borrowed and gradually repaid out of a Sinking Fund or by other means, and it is not desirable to stereotype this Sinking Fund, but it should be arranged that no more than a fair annuity should be imposed for ever on the County Rate. Then there is another burden that is borne by owners exclusively, and that is the road debt. I hope there is no desire on the part of the Government to perpetuate that. We are paying it off as fast as we can. It will be paid off in 50 years from the date of the commencement of the repayment; and it should be clear from the County Rate. As to the educational question, which has been brought up today for the first time, I was glad to hear the opinion expressed by the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Dumbartonshire, that the relief in aid of the school rates should extend a great deal further than the First, Second, and Third Standards. I think that those who, under the scheme of the Government, would be entitled to receive remission of fees in the higher standards would feel that the remission was due to their poverty and would dislike to receive it just as they dislike to receive poor relief. It would mark the children out from other scholars in the school and put them in an invidious position. I think the remissions should go beyond the Third Standard. They should go to the Sixth if it could be arranged. I note, with great satisfaction, the separation of Orkney and Shetland into two separate district counties for local purposes. I think as the Government have gone so far and have rightly gone so far, in separating two counties which have nine hours of sea voyage between them, and the inhabitants of which are distinct from each other in their habits and views, it would be desirable to create separate counties for the western islands. And, as a matter of detail, I would direct the attention of the Lord Advocate to the date of the election of the first County Councils. December is fixed in the Bill, but that is as very bad 898 date for the islands in the North and West of Scotland. It is about the stormiest month which could have been chosen, and the difficulty of getting proper candidates to come forward, and of getting voters to go to the poll in that month will be very great. I trust, therefore, that the date will be altered. I would only like to say, in conclusion, that this is no Party matter. On other questions we are divided on both sides of the House, but I trust that all Scotch Members will meet together for the purpose of discussing this question on its merits. We have all a common interest in making the Local Government of Scotland as good as possible, and I think we may all unite in a friendly way, urging our own points, and begging the Government to give a candid consideration to such matters as may come up for discussion. We want to simplify the whole machinery of the Bill, and make it as easy to work as we can, and so as far as possible, perfect the Local Government of Scotland.
§ * MR. MARJORIBANKS (Berwickshire)
I rejoice very much that, unlike some of my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side of the House, I was not led away by the siren voice of the Lord Advocate when he introduced the Bill, and did not bound up at once and congratulate him on the immense amount of good the Scotch people were about to get. No doubt there is a substratum of good in the Bills, but there is nothing in them which should make one lose oneself in admiration. There is little in them to inspire the enthusiasm of the people of Scotland. There is much to be found fault with, and much that we may condemn. There is an old proverb which says that "If you Scratch a Russian you will find a Tartar," and certainly if you scratch the veneer of popular sentiment that surrounds these measures, you will find in them the good old Tory principle of distrust of the masses, and desire to keep the management of the counties in the hands of the landowners. The old ejaculation that "the earth is the laird's and the fulness thereof," is very well illustrated in many of the provisions of this Bill. Now, I regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland is not in his place, as I desire to make reference to some observations of his. I must say I am glad the right hon. Gentleman was 899 able to find leisure from the task of governing Ireland in order to devote a little time to the promotion—even from a Conservative point of view—of the self-government of his own country. It must have been a pleasant change to the right hon. Gentleman to leave off thinking of his battering rams in Ireland and to do something towards giving more self-government to Scotland. It was interesting to listen to the right hon. Gentleman urging the House to look at the Bills from the Scotch point of view, and one could not help reflecting that if he only acted on his own advice in dealing with Ireland things would be in a more satisfactory position in that country. It seems to me that if he carried some of these sentiments over to the Chief Secretary's Lodge and applied them to his government of Ireland it would be a great advantage. The right hon. Gentleman took up my right hon. Friend beside me (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) very shortly because he ventured to say that his objection to the Parochial Boards Bill was of a strong character. He complained that for my right hon. Friend to take up a hostile attitude towards the third Bill was in violation of the promises he had made as to the manner in which he proposed to deal with the Bills as a whole. Now I deny that entirely. The Parochial Board Bill rests on a very different footing from all these other Bills. It rests on what we believe to be a bad foundation, on the foundation of a division of of representation between the owner and the occupier. The right hon. Gentleman said that was a very natural foundation, as it was found to work well under the Roads and Bridges Act; but he surely might have found a precedent in the School Board elections. There is no division between owners and occupiers there, and it seems to me it would have been better to have adopted that system as a type rather than fall back on the Roads and Bridges Act. Then, the right hon. Gentleman was exceedingly wrath with my right hon. Friend for suggesting that it was possible that elected magistrates might be found to do the work very well in the counties of Scotland. Elected magistrates are not to be found in burghs only; they are known to the counties, too, for many of the Borough Magistrates are regularly included in the Com- 900 mission of the Peace for the county. Then the right hon. Gentleman fell foul of my right hon. Friend for suggesting that probably occupiers and owners might divide the county rate between them. It seems to me that the incidence of the county rate is a small matter, and the owners of Scotland need not be afraid whatever arrangement is made that the incidence of the rate will be a bit worse under one system than under another. The right hon. Gentleman was very indignant at the idea of the management of the police being handed over to the County Councils. I do not think that the Chief Secretary for Ireland is a good authority on the question of police; but whether or no, I should say that one of the first tests of a good system of Local Government is the putting of the management of the police into the hands of the people. Seeing that all the burghs of Scotland —that is to say, more than the half of the population of Scotland—already manage their police, why should not the County Councils be allowed to do so? The point was raised that it would be dangerous to put the management of the police in the hands of an elected body in the Crofter Districts. I quite agree, however, with the hon. Member for Caithness, that this is a bugbear which we need not be in the least afraid of. It would be easy to introduce checks to prevent danger arising under this head. Nothing would be easier than to authorize the Secretary for Scotland if any County Council was found to provide an insufficient police force to order that in that county a sufficient number should be maintained. And I believe that if such a provision as that were included in the Bill, it would never be found necessary to enforce it. With regard to another point, I hold that it is against the interests of education that the first three standards should be free and the other three standards not free. That will be offering a premium to a man whose child has passed the first three standards to take the child away. It is also unfair to the managers of the schools, because it will diminish the number of children in the upper standards at the very time when they are earning the largest amount of the grant. Again, I do not see why a man who does not happen to pay direct taxes should be denied the right of representation under the Bill. If 901 Parliament allows the service franchise in the election of Members of Parliament who have to decide questions of peace and war, why not allow it when men are to be chosen who will have to deal with questions of roads and bridges, Poor Law, contagious diseases, weights and measures, and such local matters. The arguments used against the service franchise in Scotland in this case are exactly the same as were used against extending the Parliamentary franchise to artizans in this country. There was the same cry then as now. It was always said, "These people whom it is proposed to admit to the franchise are going to be your masters." But those fears always turned out to be unwarranted, and it will be the same in regard to these County Councils. I represent a constituency which may be said to be wholly agricultural, which was trebled in number by the Act of 1885, the number of voters in 1884 being 1,829, and in 1886 nearly 6,000. Of the new voters, I daresay three-fourths belong to the service franchise, and though they are worthy to send me to Parliament, you say they are not worthy to send representatives of their particular parishes to Scotland. It is monstrous to say that these men do not contribute to the rates. They live in houses, the value of which is taken into consideration when they enter into engagements with the farmers for employment. But even supposing that you succeed in inducing most of the service franchise holders in the counties to consent to pay rates, how would you proceed to collect them. The amounts to be collected would be so infinitesimal that the cost of collection would probably exceed the amount paid into the County Exchequer. Now, to come to the constitution of the County Council itself. I must protest against the idea of my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland that it would be better to alter the constituencies provided for by this Bill from single into double Member constituencies. I do not think that that would be an improvement in the Bill, and believe such a suggestion has in the past only been heard from the lips of men who are generally considered as reactionary. Then I come to the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stirling Boroughs—namely, the election of Convener. The Chief Secretary seemed to think it was not an 902 extraordinary thing to allow the Convener to be elected from outside the Council, or that it should be possible for the Convener to be a man who had never passed through the ordeal of election by a constituency. It seems to me that this is a most extraordinary theory, for this House of Commons, which governs the Empire, has not the power to elect its own Chairman, except from amongst the Members of its own body, and surely if such a restriction applies to the House of Commons, it ought equally to apply to the County Council. Well, then, there is another point, for I notice that a Convener of a County Council in Scotland is far below in dignity the Chairman of a County Council in England. For instance, under the English Act, he is made an ex officio magistrate of the county, but there is no such provision with regard to the Convener of the County Council in Scotland. Now I come to two other points which are of importance. The first is in regard to casual vacancies and double returns. It is proposed under the Scotch Bill that in case of casual vacancies occurring on the County Council, and in case of double returns, not that the constituency should fill the vacancy, but that the Council itself should have power to do so. I would urge that the precedent of the English Bill should be followed on this point. Then I object to the inclusion on the County Council of so large a number of ex officio members. I do not see why the Lord Lieutenant, who has no part or parcelin the operation of County Government and whose experience would be of no use whatever to the County Council, should be a member of the Council ex officio. I think it is a distinct hardship on these ex officio members of the first County Councils that they will, by not being subject to election, lose their claim to any particular constituency in their county. Now I come to the powers given under this Bill to the County Council. It seems to me it was hardly worth while to have gone to the trouble of creating the Councils at all, if you are only going to give them such powers as are proposed to be given to them under this Bill. You withhold all the most important subjects of local self-government—police, education, licensing, and the power of the purse. You propose to give them the whole powers and duties of the Commissioners of Supply, "Save as 903 in hereafter mentioned." Now this phrase "Save as in hereafter mentioned" contains the principal powers they now possess, viz: the control of the police and the power of the purse. To whom are these more important powers to be transferred? We know very well that in Scotland the real work of County Government is carried on by the Police Committee, and the right hon. Gentleman in framing this Bill remembered that, and thought that he would get round the difficulty by creating a Police Committee of his own, to whom these powers should be given, so he provided for the formation of a Police Committee, which is to have charge of the police, and to have the power of the purse. This Committee he proposes to constitute in the most extraordinary way, of a number not exceeding 14 Members, one half to be elected by the County Council and one half by the Commissioners of Supply, who are kept alive for this purpose alone. Granting that this Committee is passable and tolerable—and I maintain it is not—a much more extraordinary provision is made as to the appointment of the Chairman, and here, I think, I can feel the reek—the strong pungent reek of Parliament House in Edinburgh—for this Bill proposes that the Chairman of the Committee, with a double vote—both deliberative and casting—shall be the Sheriff of the County. Now the Sheriff of the County in Scotland is appointed by the Crown from the list of practising Advocates Sheriff and Substitutes of three years' standing, and except in the case of Lothian and Lanarkshire, these Sheriffs are under no obligation to reside in the county for which they are appointed. They will be as a rule neither ratepayers, nor capable of voting in their counties, and yet are to be made Chairmen of most important bodies under this Act. I think this is a monstrous proposal. Ne sutor ultra crepidam; the shoemaker should stick to his last, and my contention is that the Parliament House ought to be content with providing the Scottish counties with Judges and advocates, and ought not also to claim to provide them with the most important officer in their system of Local Government. Well, Sir, these are the criticisms I have to pass on this Bill. I myself feel that in assenting to the Second Reading of the Bill I assent to it simply because it is a framework 904 which may be filled in. It is the somewhat barren stump on which we may engraft some new and more vigorous wood. We hope we may make it into something, but I should like to warn the right hon. Gentleman opposite that unless we get considerable concessions, more especially with regard to the franchise, with a view to making the County Council and the Parliamentary franchise co-extensive and co-equal, I shall feel that I am bound to do what I can to defeat the Bill.
§ * SIR C. DALRYMPLE (Ipswich)
I should hardly have risen to take part in this debate had it not been for the observations which have fallen from the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I should like to point out, in the first instance, that we are somewhat accustomed to difference of opinion between hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite; but I do not think I have ever observed such wide differences of opinion as have been expressed by the speeches delivered by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stirling Burghs and the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stirling Burghs delivered a fair and full criticism of the measure—a criticism of a generous and genial character, such as one might expect from him, and he gave the House fairly to understand that, on the whole, he looked with hope to the development of the measure before the House. But after hearing the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwickshire, I am induced to ask whether he intends to move the rejection of the Bill, because I take it that no other course is compatible with the tone and language of his speech. The right hon. Gentleman quoted one or two old sayings at the expense of the measure. He and, Ne sutor ultra crepidam, and then took the trouble to translate it for our benefit. He also mentioned that it you catch a Russian you may find a Tartar, and he translated that as meaning that if you scratch a sham Radical you find of Tory. I quite recognise in the tone of the right hon. Gentleman's speech the downright mortification which exists in some quarters in regard to this measure. For many a long day it has been supposed that this question of Local Government has belonged to one Party, but while Radical Gentlemen have talked about Local Government the present Ministry have proposed to 905 deal with the question. The right hon. Gentleman took exception to the intervention in the debate of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland, but I must say that I fail to recognize the description given by the right hon. Gentleman of the tone of the Chief Secretary's speech. I have heard nothing of the wrath and indignation to which he alluded, and I must say that I did hear him thank the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling Burghs for the tone of his speech and of his criticisms, and the friendly spirit in which he had couched his remarks. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the service franchise question. No doubt there is difficulty connected with that. I must say I should be heartily glad if we found it possible to include them in the electoral body, and certainly the trouble of collecting the rates might render it hardly worth while collecting them. But my point is that that is a question for discussion in Committee. The right hon. Gentleman complained that the licensing question had been left out of the measure. I think that is a somewhat captious objection on his part, seeing that he must remember the reception given last Session to the Licensing question, when it was proposed to include it in the Local Government Bill. It has been said that the machinery of this measure is large, while the duties proposed to be given to the County Councils are small. But should not the right hon. Gentleman take comfort from that very fact, because it is plain that the largeness of the machinery makes it possible in the future to give increased duties to the County Council as time goes on. Now the only thing in which I can join hands with the right hon. Gentleman is his reference to the Chairmanship of the Joint Committees, which it is proposed to vest in the Sheriff of the county. I know quite well that in some counties, such as the county of Mid Lothian, the arrangement would be a very acceptable one, because the Sheriff there is always a resident; but in other counties, it would not be equally acceptable, for I take it that the term Sheriff would include Sheriff Substitutes, and in many counties it would be felt that the Sheriff Substitute would not be an adequate or suitable Chairman for the Joint Committee. I hope the Government in this matter will consult the prevalent opinion of the Scotch 906 Members. I will merely say before I sit down that many of these questions are questions strictly for discussion in Committee, and I hope that the debate on the Second Reading will not be unduly prolonged, because while it will really add nothing to the information of the House, it will only raise a number of points which can be better dealt with at a later stage of the Bill.
MR. W. A. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)
I beg to move the adjournment of the debate.
Debate adjourned till to-morrow at two of the clock.