§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [24th May], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
It may be thought by some hon. Members that a burgh Representative has not the same interest in the discussion of this Bill as a county Member. In my own individual case, however, I happen to have considerable experience in reference to the local management of counties in Scotland, and I am able to speak from that experience with regard to the proposals of this Bill. As a rule, up to the present, we on this side of the House have had no reason to complain of the course that Her Majesty's Government have taken on questions of general policy. They have merely given effect to Liberal principles in the legislation they have carried through this House. The English Local Government Bill was conceived in the most Liberal spirit—so Liberal indeed, that it bore contrast with any similar measure which any Liberal Government had previously conceived. It would, however, be a mistake to suppose that, because that was so, it was a Bill which could be applied to Scotland. In England the majority of the people belong to the Conservative Party, and therefore the Local Government Bill necessarily partakes of a Conservative character. Again, the people of England have not had the experience of Local Government which is possessed by the people of Scotland. It would be a mistake, therefore, to say that because a Bill is applicable to England it is also applicable to Scotland. In Scotland most of the people are Liberals; every populous place has its own burgh management. You have Road Trustee Boards, you have Parochial Board management, and School Board management. We have already in Scotland a measure of Local Government which is unsurpassed in any part of this kingdom or in any other kingdom in the world. We have in Scotland two forms of government. The Town Councils and School 1439 Boards are purely elected bodies, whilst the Parochial Boards and Road Trustee Boards are only partly elected. It is a remarkable circumstance that the only Boards which command any confidence in Scotland are those which are purely elected, and I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate to say whether he, or anyone else, has the smallest fault to find with those bodies. The partly elected Boards command no confidence whatever in the country. The ratepayers take no interest whatever in the elections to those bodies, and only half-a-dozen people or so care to turn out to take part in them, simply because the representatives of the electors on the Boards are out-numbered by those who have no electoral qualification. We can, therefore, see that if this Bill were based upon a purely electoral principle, it would command universal assent in Scotland, whereas, if it remains based partly upon the electoral and partly on the property qualification it will command no assent and no enthusiasm on the part of the general public in Scotland. The Government have somehow or other got hold of the new notion that taxation and representation must go together. They have got this notion of taxation and representation going together on the brain, and it is clouding their judgment. The old maxim was differently stated. It was that there should be no taxation without representation. The principle of taxation and representation going together is not in operation in this country at all. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) said in his speech that the electors ought to feel the rise and fall of the rates. It seems to me that you could not base your qualification upon a worse foundation than that of pecuniary and personal considerations. I notice that the Government object to sanitary matters being left to the care of the Parochial Boards in Scotland. Why are not sanitary matters adequately dealt with in Scotland? I can speak from experience, having been Chairman of a Parochial Board. It is because on the Parochial Boards you have a preponderance of owners of property, and when complaints are made about the unsanitary condition of any property, the property owners at once oppose the taking of active steps to 1440 remedy the condition of things simply because they have a personal interest in the matter. The proper course is to create a purely elected body which will act for the good of the general public, without being biassed by the amount of money which they may possibly be out of pocket by the adoption of proper measures. In this Bill the Government do not carry out the principle of taxation and representation going together. At present the Commissioners of Supply pay the whole of the taxes with one exception. The Bill proposes to take the management of affairs out of their hands and to hand them over to an elected body. The result will be that the ratepayers will have a preponderating voice in the management of matters, although they may not pay a single copper towards the expenditure. Under the Parliamentary franchise a man who does not pay any of the Imperial taxes may vote for a Member of Parliament. The household franchise is not given to a man occupying a dwelling because he occupies that dwelling, but merely for purposes of registration. If, instead of a census every 10 years we had one every year, we might put on the roll every man of 21 years of age who was on the register at the time when the previous census was taken The model Liberal doctrine on which the Constitution of this country is at present based is that of the government of the people by the people and for the people. All law in this country is the expression of the will of the people, and the cumulative wisdom of the people is the basis of our system. The men who are selected to represent the people are not selected on account of any personal or pecuniary interest they may have in the matters with which they have to deal, and it would be the greatest possible mistake for Parliament to introduce the element of self-interest and the element of property into the management of our local affairs. Well, then it is said that we should extend the jurisdiction of the County Councils to such subjects as that of education. If you are going to adopt a course of that kind you ought certainly to establish the County Councils on a wide basis. I think it is a great misfortune that at the present time we have so many registers. We could in a very simple way use the 1441 Parliamentary register as the basis of the local registers. In the case of burghs, all we should have to do would be to add those who desire to be added in respect of being women or Peers. By adopting a proposal of this kind we should obtain a uniform register, which would be made up every year and which would apply to burgh and county alike. The School Board, Parochial Board, and County Council elections might take place alternately. With regard to the police, there is a great unwillingness on the part of the Government to hand over the control of the police to the County Councils in accordance with the system adopted in the burghs. It must be admitted that no fault has hitherto been found with the management of the police by the burghs. It is said that in the Highlands it might not be advisable to give the management of the police to some of the County Councils. But I would ask whether it is wise to base this new system of Local Government upon an exceptional case which might never arise? You always have the power to pass an Act of Parliament to meet exceptional cases, and you can, if you wish, insert some special power in this Bill, such as that of authorizing the Sheriff to interfere in exceptional circumstances. It would be, however, in my opinion, a great mistake to withhold from the people the control of the police. The police force is, practically, the representative of the people in maintaining law and order. You are by degrees converting it into a military force. You are giving it a military training and taking away from it that civil character which has hitherto appertained to it. We say that it ought to retain the characteristics of a civil force, and that its control ought to be entrusted to the people. I venture to say that if the Bill be passed upon its present lines, it will awaken no enthusiasm whatever in Scotland. It introduces the possibility of the ratepayers being saddled with increased expenditure, and the result is that, as far as the ratepayers are concerned. you might as well not have passed it at all. With regard to the financial arrangements of the measure, I think the Government have altogether overlooked the local purposes for which grants in aid have been given. I am not one of those who object to the application to 1442 education of the sum available for distribution, but I would point out that the Government are taking up a very inconsistent attitude in this matter. The Chancellor of the Exchequer some time ago pointed out that taxation bore unjustly on property, and he handed over a certain amount of Imperial taxation to the Local Authorities. One and a half per cent of the Probate Duty was handed over by him to local taxation as a contribution from realty. When they have appropriated the money in this way, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government turn round and say, "Here is £171,000 for the purpose which the majority of the people of Scotland wish—namely, free education." What I wish to point out is this, that the whole of that £171,000 was appropriated in Scotland as it was appropriated in England and in Ireland, and it was a just contribution from the Imperial Exchequer for the relief of the local ratepayer, and for that purpose alone. Now you are intercepting this £171,000. I do not say much about that, only I do object to your saying that this, which is the property of the local taxpayer, is money handed over to him, as if you were devoting £171,000 for the purposes of free education. You might just as well get this money out of the local rates as intercept this money, for it is the local taxpayers' money that you are dealing with here. What is the use of trying to cut and carve about £171,000? Let the whole of the local grants go to the local ratepayer, and then have the boldness to say to him, "Now you have got those contributions, we mean to abolish school fees, and we will pay whatever is necessary for the purpose of bringing education up to the proper standard." That would be statesmanlike; but, instead, the Government are adopting a policy which will land them in inextricable confusion. I support the application of this money to free education. As to the £30,000 given to the Highlands, I concur in the criticisms offered on this side of the House. One half of that sum has gone to the landed proprietors and the other half to a portion of the tenants. To the poor people of the Highlands not one halfpenny of this £30,000 will go. They are too poor to pay rates, and therefore not one single copper of this money will go to their relief. More than that, you are not 1443 removing the sources of poverty. If you would just lay out the capital value of the £30,000 in promoting public works, in opening communications with the Highlands, then you would enable the people to earn a living for themselves by honest industry, and you would relieve the burden on the rates. It is not by subsidising the rates that you will do away with poverty, but by removing the sources. We are an Imperial country, an United Kingdom. Scotland is not a separate part of this kingdom; and if distress exists in Scotland, it is the duty of the United Kingdom to relieve that distress. The Government by their action are going to establish a separatist doctrine; you are going to treat Scotland separately. If you are going to allocate the money to Scotland, our answer is, "Give us a Parliament in Scotland and we will allocate the money, for we have to support our own poor. We do not require your assistance." We find that Conservative Members on the other side will concur in the view that the money should be paid out of the Imperial Exchequer. You cannot treat distress in one part of the kingdom differently from distress in another part. We do not object to your works for distress in Ireland; we only regret that Ireland is in a position to require assistance. We are proud that we do not require assistance. If, however, any part of our country does require assistance, then we hold it has a just claim upon the United Kingdom. Then with regard to the £35,000 for roads. Here, again, is the most unfair treatment of the burgh ratepayer compared with the county ratepayer. I would like the Lord Advocate to explain why, two years ago, the grant for roads was doubled. There was a Supplementary Estimate brought in, and £35,000 was added. Nobody asked for any explanation. For myself, I thought the amount had been omitted in the original estimate, so I allowed it to pass. We can now see the reason of the addition. It laid the foundation for saying that last year we granted £70,000 to roads. It was done in view of the Local Government Bill coming on, and that is how you managed it. Now, how do you divide the money granted for roads? The grants are made according to the cost of maintenance of roads. Now, the cost of main- 1444 tenance of roads in counties is exactly double the cost in burghs, yet you give £60,000 to the counties and £10,000 to the burghs. Why do you not distribute the money according to the cost of maintenance in the usual way? You give the counties six times, instead of twice, what the burghs obtain. The President of the Local Government Board says the townspeople use the country roads. But if the country people bring produce into the towns it is for their profit, and if burgh tradesmen take goods to them it is for their convenience; or if excursionists from the town use the country roads, they spend their money among the inhabitants of the country. Look at it in whatever way you will, you find that the country roads are used for the purposes of the people of the country, and they really get the benefit of their own roads. With regard to free education, the Government have acknowledged the principle. It is impossible for them to withdraw from the position they have taken up; and if the principle is not fully carried out, it is not because the principle is wrong, but because there is not sufficient money for the particular purpose. It will be very difficult indeed in future to collect the school fees after the Government have acknowledged the principle of free education. There is no use in trying to stop short on this question. We must go the whole way. Stopping short would be a cause of greater grievances than if we had never touched the matter at all. It is said you are going to relieve the lower standards, but I maintain that the more important are the higher standards, in the interests of the development of education and skilled labour, which is the most valuable possession a country can have. Then, again, look at the decision in regard to Scotland. Standard V. is to be made compulsory, whereas Standard IV. is compulsory in England; so that you make the child a burden upon the Scotch parent a year longer than upon the English parent. I heard some remarkable statements from the hon. Baronet the Member for Wigtonshire. He was educated before the school Boards came into existence, and that may explain in some way his arithmetical calculations. I think the Scotch Education Department must have inspired his figures. 1445 The hon. Member for North Aberdeen said that the parents of three children at school would pay £3 18s. a year for six years, and he showed the difference in the cost of paying school fees and paying for the relief of school fees from the rates. According to the hon. Baronet the Member for Wigtonshire a parent in Aberdeen, if he occupied a £12 house, would pay 2s. 3d. a year, and the amount spread over 30 years would be £3 7s. 6d., and if a parent had three children at school the saving would only be 7s. 6d. The average school fees in Scotland are 13s. for one child, and when it has passed the Fifth Standard, for which the average education is six years, the average payment for the child would be £3 18s., and if there were two children it would be £7 16s. The hon. Baronet went further, and said the third child goes free; but it is only free for three years, and if he will make the calculation for himself he will find the amount to be between £10 and £11 which the parent will have to pay in regard to school fees. Just look at the difference. The parent has to pay £10 or £11 within ten years at a time when it is most difficult for him to bring up his children; but in the case of paying the rate that is spread over 30 years. But I will take the hon. Baronet a little farther. If he will calculate the interest the school fees cost the man, and balance his position at the end of 30 years, he will find that the parent will have paid £20 more in principal and interest that way than in the other, and yet the hon. Baronet tried to make out that the saving was 7s. 6d. On another point the hon. Baronet said that, by giving free education in the first three standards, the Government had assured the greatest good to the greatest number, and that is so in a pecuniary sense. But when we are speaking of education we do not speak of it in that sense; and I ask, are you doing the greatest good to the children?
§ MR. CALDWELL
I admit that you give the parent the advantage of cheaper fees, but that is all. We say the best thing to do is not to give free education in the lower standards, but rather, by getting the parent to pay for education in those standards, to give him an inducement to continue the 1446 education in the higher standards. In this way you will be doing the greatest good to the children and to the nation. We do not look at this as a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence; we want to place it on a broader and wider basis in the interests of education generally. The hon. Baronet also said they had adopted the principle of the School Board, fixing lower fees for the lower standards. But why are the fees low in the lower standards? It is because the cost of education is much less in the lower than in the higher standards. In the lower standards you employ pupil teachers, and consequently pay them less than is paid to the teachers employed in the higher standards. But does it not occur to the hon. Baronet that in giving the Government grant this process was reversed, because in that case the higher grant is given for the higher education; and that being so, why, in the case of this Bill, should the Government give the larger sum to the lower standards?
§ SIR H. MAXWELL
What I said was that the proposal of the Government followed the example set by the School Boards in recognizing the necessity of free, or comparatively free, education in the lower standards.
§ MR. CALDWELL
The hon. Baronet said that the parents, having saved the cost of the fees in the earlier period, will be able to pay them in the later period. Does he, as a practical man, mean to say that Scotch parents will lay aside so much every year so that it will be available when the time comes for the purpose of paying the higher fees of the School Board? It is not at all probable that this will be the case; on the contrary, if they have not been called on to pay at the earlier stages, they will be the less inclined to do so at the later ones; besides which, the children being older cost more for food and clothing, and there is also a greater temptation to withdraw the children, if they can find sufficient excuse, in order to put them to work. I would say that if we give any relief at all, we ought to relieve the higher education and not the lower. I will not detain the House longer, only to point out to the Government that if they do not proceed on a wide basis, but insist on holding to the lines of this Bill, they may as well not pass it at all, If it were not for the education clauses. 1447 I would much rather see the Bill shelved. The Government need not think they can stop short of going the whole length of Standard V; and they will find that not only will they have to go this length, in Scotland, but they will have to do the same thing in England because the Liberal Party will make it a test question that the parent should have no school fees to pay, as in Scotland. I am not at the present moment concerned about the local ratepayer. In England, however, where you have given so much in relief of the ratepayers, you will not be able to take the money out of their pockets again for the purposes of free education. The English ratepayer will have a strong objection to the local rates being used for denominational schools. That is an objection you cannot well get over; so that the result will be that from bye-election to bye-election you will be gradually forced to adopt the principle of free education, and being unable to saddle it on the ratepayers, you will eventually have to take the money from the Imperial Exchequer.
§ * SIR G. TREVELYAN (Bridgeton, Glasgow)
I shall reserve my congratulations upon these Bills until they leave the House, but I trust they will be read a second and third time together, and that they will be considered by the same Committee, whatever that Committee may be, as the alterations to be made by that Committee will be extremely important. The English Members have long been in the habit of saying that the Scotch Members are a Parliament within a Parliament, and they say this in praise of us. We have now arrived at a time when that statement can be tested; we have come to a period when we shall be able to see whether matters concerning Scotland solely are to be managed in accordance with Scotch opinion. I should be very glad if we could have that Parliament within a Parliament which is proposed by my Friend the hon. Member for Leith Burghs (Mr. Munro Ferguson), but if that is not to be the case, and these Bills are to be discussed in Committee of the whole House, I earnestly trust that the majority of the Scotch Members will not be overborne by the majority of the English Members, especially English Members, who do not 1448 care to inform themselves as to what Scotch opinion is by listening to Scotch debates. Now, Sir, these Bills are drawn in such a manner that it will be very easy after Whitsuntide for the Scotch Members to make up and declare their minds on every separate point; and in this debate on the Second Reading—a debate in which so many Members wish to speak—I shall try to be as brief as possible in setting forward as clearly as I can those matters which I think ought to be altered in these Bills. First of all, I come to the constituency that is to elect the County Council. I quite agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Elgin Burghs, that it is a great pity that the opportunity has not been taken for consolidating the electoral arrangements of Parochial Boards, County Councils, and Parliament. We have got a separate constituency for Parliament, and I earnestly trust we shall have a separate constituency for the County Councils and Parochial Boards if it be necessary seriously to discuss the Parochial Boards Bill, which, however, I hope we shall not see again this Session. The service franchise-holder, whose house is not separately rated, and who does not pay the rates himself, does not have a vote. Now the compound householder pays the rates in the shape of a higher rent, and exactly in the same way the service franchise man paid the rates in the shape of receiving diminished wages, and it is absolutely impossible to turn the flank of that position. There are one or two points on which we may gain experience from the English Act. I know that in Northumberland, which so much resembles the southern counties of Scotland, excessive disappointment was felt by the service franchise voters when they found they had not the vote. Not only were they excluded from the list, but from the polling booth. I am proud to say that these men were very much disappointed and regarded it as a personal misfortune that had befallen them. The President of the Local Government Board found, in the fact that the service voters were so numerous, an argument why they should not be placed on the register. I must say, however, that when Parliament is considering what is to be the constituency of a self-governing nation, the idea of excluding a particular class 1449 because of their number is most extraordinary.
* THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE, Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
May I point out that that was not the reason I gave. I was dealing with and assuming a ratepaying franchise, and my argument was that inasmuch as the service voters did not pay rates and were a large majority in the constituencies, it was certainly contrary to sound principle that the majority who did not pay rates should practically have the control with reference to a rate-paying franchise.
§ * SIR G. TREVELYAN
I am quite willing to leave the argument as the right hon. Gentleman has stated it, and I assert that the argument depends on the great numbers of these men. Now it appears to me that the argument should go the other way. The Secretary for Ireland went still further. He said the extension of the present system would embrace new functions and attributes, and that the County Councils, before many years had elapsed, will be entrusted with other and more important functions than are yet given to them. He added that he was not prepared to hand over the whole of these powers to people who do not now and never will contribute to the rates. Therefore the Secretary for Ireland thinks that because new functions are to be given to the Council, and because the social, moral and intellectual interests of the people are to be gradually handed over to those Councils he has found in that fact an additional reason for excluding them from its deliberations. I hope that the English Members will not be deceived by the name of "service franchise." These men are not the personal servants of gentlemen, they are not grooms and gardeners; they are the very pick of the population. They are men who, from their character and habits of life, are peculiarly independent men, taking great interest in all the social and intellectual affairs of the neighbourhood—a very superior class of agricultural labourers equal to any that is to be found in any part of the world. To say that they are not a class of men who can be trusted with public money because they are likely to expend it too freely is really too strong an order. [Cries of "Oh!") Then what was the meaning of insisting on 1450 the direct payment of rates? They are men who, by their nature, are economical, who hate jobbery, and who like to have their full penny worth for their penny. In 1861 there was a Report of a Commission on Education, which showed that, at a time when English rural districts were often dark and ignorant, these service voters in the South of Scotland could all read with ease and almost all write with accuracy and precision. I remember distinctly in the controversy upon household suffrage in the counties that it was for the sake of these men largely that the county franchise was obtained. Then having for their sake given their countrymen the Parliamentary franchise, are we going to deny them a share in managing their local affairs? They contribute likewise to the fund which is allotted in aid of rates. What do you say to the Probate Duty? I knew a man of this class whose widow has been able to spend £200 in purchasing an annuity and another whose furniture was sold for £55; which would bring them both within the range of those who contribute to the Probate Duty. I cannot put the matter better than it was put by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Banner-man) 20 years ago. When my right hon. Friend brought forward his Resolution for establishing County Councils he asked the House to trust the government as well as the financial part of the administration of the counties to those whom they were not afraid to trust in regard to Imperial matters, and with the control of the national expenditure. That is what we are going to urge upon the Committee now. My right hon. Friend thought so 20 years ago, and we on this side of the House think the same thing now and intend to emphasize it. The suggestion which has been advanced by the Government to mitigate the grievance that the service occupier might voluntarily pay the rates, and so become a voter, I must condemn as dangerous in its tendency, because the moment such a system is introduced it offers a premium to wirepullers to interfere with the voters. It is an idea which was absolutely blown out of the water in the debate of 1867 by the late Mr. Bright and the late Mr. Forster, which showed the absurdity of the proposition that in a few weeks the Government had to 1451 abandon it. Yet the proposal of Mr. Disraeli was a trifle compared with that of the Government now. It is a dangerous principle because it introduces the system of a man doing some voluntary act in order that he may got the vote. I regard this principle, if extended elsewhere, with absolute dismay, and I regarded the application of it in the present Bill as a strange and petty and almost trifling device. The next point is the question of keeping alive the Commissioners of Supply to make a committee to deal with the standing expenditure and the police. It is said in defence of that part of the scheme that the whole cost of the police of the counties falls on the owners. Who, then, pays the License Duties? Everybody knows that these Duties do not fall on the owners of the soil. The Lord Advocate has not yet been able to lay on the Table a Paper giving the distribution of the License Duties in Scotland, but that in the English counties fully one-half consists of public house licenses, liquor licenses, and tobacco licenses, which certainly do not fall upon the landlords. But I do not care who pays for the police. The question is, whom does law, order, and the morality of the locality concern? Wherever there is local Government there law and order are the first care. I used to represent the burgh of Hawick—a very high-spirited burgh indeed. Law and order were ticklish things on one or two occasions there. I have seen the town of Hawick in a state of the most terrible excitement, and if the charge of the police had been in the hands of the Sheriff that day the peace would not have been preserved; but it was in the hands of the provost, whose politics differ from my own, but who was a man whom everybody in the town knew and trusted, and who knew the localities, town, and the temper of the people, and the whole thing went off as peaceably as possible. In my opinion it will be the same wherever there is a prospect of disorder if the people feel that the police are their police and are in their hands. I asked a friend of mine, a chairman of a County Council, a man also of different politics from my own, whether there was anything he wished to change with respect to the County Council, and he said there was one thing, and only one, and that 1452 was the Joint Committees of Magistrates and Delegates from the County Council, and the reason he gave was that the jealousy and ill-feeling of class against class he had seen in that body was the feeling against elected Magistrates as members of the Committee. The consequence was that no Gentleman filling an ex officio position, however much respected he might be, was chosen on the Committee. It will be just the same in Scotland. None of these ad valorem Commissioners of Supply will be chosen on the Committee. I think the Government have shown no reason whatever for putting a slight upon the inhabitants of Haddingtonshire and Mid Lothian by saying that they are not as fit to manage their own police as the inhabitants of Glasgow and Dundee. With regard to another point, I utterly deny that because the landlord is to pay the capital expenditure upon the roads the ratepayer should not have an equal vote in the management. It is not only a question of who is to pay for the roads. The land of the country for certain purposes belongs as much to the people of the country as to the landlords, and we think that they ought to have certain rights which they do not possess now. We think they ought to have a right to sites for places of worship and to a certain amount of ground for allotments. But their first right, and their undisputed right, is the right of way. The question of roads or how a road is to go is not one for the man across whose land the road is to pass. It would be as monstrous a thing to allow landlords to say how a road should go as it would be to have a Committee of Landlords Upstairs appointed to say how a railroad is to go. The roads are just as much the rights of the public as the land off the roads is the right of the landlords. Then again, I take it that there would be a very strong opposition to allowing the County Council to choose a Chairman from outside. Another point on which the county should be put on a level with the town is in having elected Magistrates. No argument has been brought forward to show that what is good and safe for the town would not be good and safe for the county, and these Magistrates, when elected, ought to have the same duties and responsibilities, including licensing, as are in the hands of the Magistrates of the towns. I now 1453 come, in conclusion, to the finance scheme, which has already been ably argued by my hon. Friend the Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter). I express my entire adherence to his view that in regard to the abolition of the education fee, it is a fatal defect to begin with the lower standards. The effect will be to discourage parents from allowing their children to proceed to the upper standards at a time when possibly the wages which the children might earn have become a consideration. The Education Institute of Scotland has sent round to Members a paper in which they condemn the proposal as objectionable, and recommended that the whole sum from the Probate Duty should be applied to the remission of school fees. It is plain to any one who listened to the hon. Member for North Aberdeen that the question could be settled. There is, to begin with, the —30,000 for the Highlands, which it is quite clear the Highlands do not want. I am not sorry to give money to the Highlands provided it comes out of the right pocket and goes into the right pocket. I object to its being given to landlords in the way in which it is proposed to be given. But if it were given to the schools it would benefit both landlords and people; the former because the school rates bear unfairly upon them, and the latter in the form of relief from school fees. I have no wish to be unjust to the landlords. I think they have suffered and suffered extensively, but the grant given in this way will relieve them exactly where they have suffered. There is at present an enormous difference in the school rates of different places with the same rateable value. For instance, the schools in Berwickshire cost £5,000, whereas in Invernessshire they cost £12,600. One great cause of this is the irregularity, and even more than irregularity, of the payment of school fees. In the Highlands the attendance of the children is exceptionally irregular—in the Lewis, for example, the average attendance is only 1,900, with 4,000 school places. In one group of parishes where £195 ought to have been collected only £5 was collected. The result has been to commit a great injustice to the ratepayers, and I think that every penny that can be given to the Highlands out of the Probate Duty ought to be given 1454 in order to get rid of the payment of fees for education. The Highlands specially want help in the matter of education. I hope the Government will not object to go further in this Bill than they went in the English Bill. The Scotch Education Act has been a vast improvement on the English, and the same course should be followed with the Scotch Local Government Act. I hope the Government will consult Scotch opinion so as to make, as the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) said, the County Government of Scotland as admirable as the existing system of Local Government in Burghs. Less than the Scotch Burghs have the Scotch Counties will not care to condescend to take.
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. P. B. ROBERTSON, Buteshire)
In replying to the various arguments and inquiries which have been addressed to me in the course of the Debate, I wish, in the first place, without speaking in any controversial sense, to say that I think it will hardly be disputed that the Debate of late has shown certain signs of repetition, and a large number of points have been raised which are really more suitable for the Committee stage of the Bill. Various important questions have been brought under the attention of the House by hon. Gentlemen on both sides, and all of them will form proper subjects for inquiry and consideration. I have been asked by my hon. Friend the Member for the Partick division of Lanarkshire (Mr. Craig Sellar), what is to be the number of councillors assigned to each county. The duty of fixing the number is assigned to the Secretary for Scotland. But, following the precedent of the Bill of last year, I will undertake that an indication shall be given of the scheme which the Government propose to adopt. I have no reason to complain of the strictures which have been passed on the Bill by the Front Bench opposite. My right hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. J. B. Balfour) made a most urbane and copious attempt to belittle the scope of the Bill; but he did it in so agreeable a manner that he did not leave any ill-feeling behind. But, although copious in his objections, he failed to make good those which he pointed out. He said that this Bill is conspicuous by the number of subjects with which it does not deal, and among 1455 these he specified education and the poor. Now, does my right hon. and learned Friend mean that education and the poor are to be transferred from parochial into county questions? Is the unit of administration for education to be the county instead of the parish? If my right hon. Friend does not mean this, his speech was a piece of rhetoric rather than argument. If he meant that the County Council was to exercise a revising power, and to be a sort of Court of review, serious and complicated questions would arise. Then the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division (Sir G. Trevelyan) has referred to the administration of justice. But has the right hon. Gentleman any idea of the kind of business with which the County Magistrate has to deal? The right hon. Gentleman ought to have known that the tendency has been in all matters of importance for the jurisdiction of the Magistrates to be exercised by the paid and legally trained Sheriff. Then it is said that the Government have failed to present a sufficiently popular basis of election. But has the right hon. Gentleman consulted with Scotch Members on the Front Opposition Bench? Let me refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duff), made in February, 1889, in which the hon. Member said there were two alternatives, either to alter the incidence of the rates, or to allow the owners to continue to have the management of the rates.
§ MR. DUFF (Banffshire)
I was referring exclusively to the rates falling on the proprietor and not to the general principle of rating.
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
That is my point. We are leaving the rates the hon. Gentleman referred to upon the owners, and yet we are proposing to give a popular suffrage. The hon. Gentleman thinks that is not a logical method of carrying out the system of rating because, he says you ought to have owners and owners only. I hope, before the right hon Gentleman falls foul of the service franchise, he will procure some appearance of unanimity on the Front Bench opposite. I think the right hon. Gentleman has discussed the service franchise in a more acrimonious spirit than was necessary. I would deprecate the heated discussion of a subject which is one to be calmly 1456 considered. The right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division says that registration has been combined with voting as a convenient way of making up a list of names. Is it for that reason that a man who is assessed and does not pay his rates does not get the vote? The proposals of the Bill have been criticized in some cases fairly, and in others with much unfairness. It has been represented that we have tried to exclude the service franchise. We have done nothing of the kind. As to the objection of the right hon. Member for Clackmannan that the service voter must claim, there is something in it, but the lodger has to claim every year. On this question, whether better provision might be formed for dealing with the service franchise holders, the Government are quite prepared to consider the matter. The House, I am sure, will believe that we are guided by this consideration—that it might be rash to introduce into the control of the County Council a class who are not consciously affected by the increase in the rates. The point is that we should obtain some guarantee for a due sense of responsibility on the part of the voter; a sense of responsibility which the call of the rate collector is best calculated to enforce. I pass from that to the question of stereotyping, as to which there is an interesting diversity of opinion. Attacks have been made from various quarters upon our proposals. The problem is how are you fairly and equitably to give popular representations, and at the same time not to increase the rates. What we propose is simply this. We desire that the landlords should not benefit by the change, although it may involve a certain diminution of their political influence. We desire that the present burdens on the land should remain, but we think it only fair that the landlords should be protected against administration which is no longer in their hands, and which may throw fresh burdens upon them. We say that the existing rates shall continue, and if there is any increment that it shall fall half on the owner and half on the occupier. It is said that a large part of the present burden has arisen from expenditure upon permanent works packed into a few years which might have been spread over a longer term of years. It is well worthy of consideration whether a 1457 burden of this kind should not be treated as the normal burden taking one year with another which falls upon the land. It is said that in certain counties there has been an enormous and extraordinary expenditure. We propose to take the average expenditure for five years, but if it is thought that it would be more equitable and more likely to arrive at the true state of the facts to take a longer number of years, that is certainly a question which ought to be considered. Our desire is to ascertain what is the proportion of the rates which represents the existing burdens on the landlord, and having ascertained that, then to apportion anything additional between the owner and the occupier. The right hon. Member for Clackmannan says that what we propose is to fix for all time the burden that shall fall upon the owners without taking into account any fluctuations in the value of property. Now the point is this. The criticisms which have been offered might be just if they fixed the gross amount of the rates, but they do not do that. They fix the rates. Let me take 2d. in the pound. Suppose we had £1,000. If that increased to £2,000, then there would be 2,000 twopences instead of 1,000. The former of the proposals rests on its intrinsic merits. When the right hon. Gentleman proposed to throw upon the tenants one-half of the rates which fall upon the owners, he proposed to put upon the tenants what may be not incorrectly described as a new burden of £100,000 a year. That is the only proposal competing with the proposal of the Government. If the Government had proposed that before the abstraction from the power of the country gentlemen they should have made those gentlemen a present of £100,000 a year, what speeches the right hon. Member for Bridgeton would have made in the House and the country. I, therefore, hope the country will note that our proposal is to leave the burden on the landlords, while right hon. Gentlemen opposite have no alternative proposal to make except to take £100,000 off the landlords and plant it on the tenants. I do not think these proposals will find very much acceptance, or that they will be very forcibly pressed, and I therefore turn to another topic of great importance. 1458 The question of the police is one which every man who holds, or has held, or may hold office, is bound to speak on with great circumspection. It is a subject from which should be proscribed all the demagogic arts, although I am not sure that that has been so tonight. It was so when my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. J. P. B. Balfour) declined to commit himself against the Government proposals. For my part I should regard it as an act of criminal folly for any Government to try and get popularity out of this question. It is easy to praise the people and say they have confidence in them, but what the Government have thought proper to do is to place the control of the police where popularity should not be attainable. I do not say the County Councillors would act otherwise than from a sense of duty, but the subject of the management of the police may be put into the crucible of electioneering vanity or popularity hunting, and lead to excitement and discussion on matters as to which excitement and discussion are not the proper methods of obtaining the objects in view. The Government are not starting a new system, but merely logically carrying out existing Acts. It is a mistake to assume that the Commissioners of Supply have uncontrolled management of the police. According to the Act of 1857, passed under a Liberal Government, the Police Committee consisted of the Lord Lieutenant, the Sheriff, and a number of elected Commissioners of Supply, from three to 15; there might, therefore, be a Committee of which three were elected and two official. Therefore, when the Government are taunted with distrust of the County Councils, I retort that they are merely doing what the Legislature has implied with regard to the Commissioners of Supply. So much for the counties; but the right hon. and learned Member for Clackmannan and others have spoken of the burghs. Under the general police statute in Scotland, on the vital question of the dismissal or appointment of an inspector of police and the question of his salary, nothing can be done without the concurrence of the provost of the burgh and the sheriff of the county, and, in case of difference, a reference to the 1459 Lord Advocate. In the case of large towns like Glasgow and Edinburgh, where there have been more recent opportunities of legislating upon that subject, there are similar provisions to those of the General Police Act. It is, therefore, erroneous to say the Government are departing from the existing police system of the counties or the practice of the burghs. On that subject I trust the House will support the Government in standing firmly by their proposals. Now, my right hon. and learned Friend has said the Government should rest satisfied with the check they have in the power of the Secretary for Scotland to refuse the half contribution for the clothing and pay of the police. Suppose that were to occur, the result would be, in the first place, that a very heavy burden would be thrown, not upon the people properly to blame, but upon the landlords and ratepayers, and what would the effect of the refusal of the grant be except to paralyze the police? It would be particularly inefficacious in the case put by the right hon. and learned gentleman—that is, in a crisis. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that this idea on the part of the Government was due to the disturbed state of some parts of the Highlands. The Government necessarily had in view both the Highlands and the Lowlands of Scotland in drawing up their scheme. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that the Government ought to deal with Scotland piecemeal, but is there agreement on that point? Does the right hon. Gentleman carry with him the representatives of the crofter districts? Although the considerations affecting the north-west Highlands did influence the Government, apart from them altogether the Government deemed it wise to establish the whole police arrangements on such a steady and impregnable basis as should guard against any possible dangers in future. Let us take this test. Suppose we had been discussing the Local Government Bill in 1881 before the disturbances in the Highlands broke out, and the Government had put forward the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, would not they have been blamed for want of prescience in not realizing that there were times of storm as well as times of calm to be considered? Turning to another point of salient importance—namely, the educa- 1460 tional proposals of the Government, I am not surprised at the large proportion of the debate which has been occupied with that interesting subject; at the same time I think it should hardly have been, discussed as though this were a general debate on free education. The Government have endeavoured to secure two objects. They have left as they stand the grants to the rates. The right hon. Member for Bridgeton (Sir G. Trevelyan) does not seem to like that proposal, because the rates which will be relieved are paid by the landlord.
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
He would have liked it if it had gone to the poor people. I thought we were discussing the question of the application of this money to the rates. I do not understand why we are entitled to offer alms to people who are not paying rates, although I quite understand that is characteristic of the right hon. Gentleman's politics.
§ * SIR.G. TREVELYAN
I do not like to interrupt so courteous and instructive a speech, but the fact of the matter is, I object to any special application out of the Scotch Probate Duty to the Highlands at all, and I likewise object, if you do give money to the Highlands, to giving it specially to the ratepaying landlords.
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
If there is a grant it must be a grant in favour of the deserving and needy! That is leaving the region of rates for the region of general beneficence. I trace here, again, what I think is the influence which has disfigured the right hon. Gentleman's speech. The right hon. Gentleman never can resist the tendency to make a demagogic point. He always fastens on a point where there is any opportunity of praising the poor at the expense of the rich, and he has to-night gone the length of saying he does not like a grant from the Probate Duty to the rates where the relief happens to fall on the landlords only. He said he thought it would be most desirable to give it to the poor in the form of school fees, and he proceeded to point out that in the very part of the country to which he was referring no school fees are paid. Therefore his method is one which I find exceedingly 1461 difficult—I do not say to follow but to understand. I have always understood that the statement of the President of the Local Government Board has been accepted as at all events showing very good reason for the continuation of the £30,000, but I am not going to let the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton off on the subject of the landlord. And let me remind the House that in the giving of this money you must give it in the relief of the rates, that is to say the ratepayers, and it is the fact that in no part of the country have the landlords a better right to get it than in the Highland districts, and for the reason that they have not only to pay their own rates but the tenants' rates. Now I was going to say one or two words as to our educational proposals. Our plan is to meet in the first place the grants in aid of the rates, and in the second place to wipe off school fees where we think they press most heavily. I deprecate hon. Gentlemen running the risk of making the payment of school fees unpopular by the excessive lengths to which they go. The proposal that we should take over some of the rates in order to clear off all school fees seems to me one which will inevitably lead to that result. The ratepayers are a larger class than the friends of school children. It is only at one part of a man's life that he has children at school. And, therefore, I strongly deprecate the suggestion that there is anything which savours of privilege in making payrment out of the rates, or anything popular in being unjust to the ratepayers and generous to the parents of school children. We have done our best to harmonize the relief given to owners and occupiers, to parents and ratepayers. The right hon. Gentleman has started the question between remitting fees in the higher and lower standards. By freeing the lower standards we clear the largest number of children—two-thirds of the children are in the lower standards—and we are able to wipe off the fees of that large number of children to an absolute extent. When we turn to the higher standards, we there clear away the fees from all children who would have to go to the Parochial Board to obtain them. Is it not the case that there has been constant hostility to the schemes of the Educational Commissioners dealing 1462 with endowments when they ventured to propose the application of endowments to the higher standards? But, on the other hand, I hope hon. Gentlemen will not leave out of account that the amount of provision for free education, if that word is to be used, in the upper standards is not to be measured merely by what we directly provide from this Probate money, because there are some endowments which are devoted to the payment of fees in the lower standards. Our plan propels them from the lower to the higher standards, because we propose that, inasmuch as all fees will be paid in the lower standards, any endowments which are dedicated to the lower standards shall hereafter go to the higher standards. That is a very important consideration in dealing with this matter.
§ MR. W. P. SINCLAIR (Falkirk)
Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman estimate the amount of that contribution?
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
It is several thousands of pounds. I have not the figures at hand, but it is a very substantial amount. Now, there might be much said on this subject, but this is not the stage of the Bill at which it should be said. I do not know that I have occupied too much of the time of the House, considering the number of topics to be dealt with, and I hope I have not shown any disposition to treat this subject in an acrimonious spirit. Necessarily, upon a subject of this kind, the Government depend to a large extent on the co-operation of all sections of the House, and I venture to think it will be found that, while there are subjects upon which we are more or less inclined to disagree, but which, after all, must be disposed of, there are questions upon which the ideas furnished by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will be valuable in the attempt to improve the measure. There are various matters upon which two heads are better than one, and upon which the application of the candid speeches of the various sections of the House will no doubt improve the Bill. I think I gathered from the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Clackmannan, that we are to be favoured with their auspicious co-opera 1463 tion, and I rejoice that they are likely so largely to influence the action of their friends on the subject. If we have the co-operation which, I think, the people of Scotland feel we are entitled to, we shall most heartily reciprocate the good feeling it will exhibit.
§ * MR. A. SUTHERLAND (Sutherland)
I am not going to express disappointment at this measure. I am not one who expects Liberal measures from a Conservative Government, and therefore I am not disappointed. This measure has been announced with a great flourish of trumpets from every platform in Scotland and in the Scotch press, but now we find that so far from there being any trust of the people that principle is entirely absent from the Bill. I cannot find any other principle in the Bill than distrust of the people. What the Government should have done was to extend to the county the system of municipal government now existing in the burghs of Scotland, but instead of that they have devised a Conservative measure. I would not have intervened in the present debate but for the assumption of the Lord Advocate that the restriction with regard to the control of the police has been imposed upon Scotland because of certain disturbances which occurred in the Highlands.
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
What I said was that I thought the state of the Highlands formed a strong reason in itself, but the considerations of general policy regarding the police were applicable to the whole country.
§ * MR. A. SUTHERLAND
The disturbances in the Highlands were not due to the action of the people but to that of the landlords, and I shall always object to the blame being thrown on the people. It is not for me to object to the grant of £30,000 to the Highlands. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division has said, it is not the origin of the grant that we object to so much as its destination. It is vain for the Lord Advocate to say that this relief to taxation in the Highlands will benefit the poor people. For every penny that will go into the pockets of the people of the Highland people hundreds of pounds will go into the pockets of the landlords. Who asked for this grant of £30,000 to be applied in the way suggested? It is not within my knowledge that any representative of a 1464 Highland county has ever asked for it. I know the representatives of Highland constituency have demanded money in relief of the Highland people. This £30,000 would solve the whole Highland question in five years. We cannot get money, and yet this grant is to be given to the landlords. The Lord Advocate has spoken of the chorus of approval with which this measure has been received in Scotland. I do not know what channels of information he has. I can congratulate the Lord Advocate in one respect, that his Bill is eminently amendable. With Clauses 12 and 18 struck out the Bill might be made to meet the wishes of the people of Scotland. I hope in Committee these clauses may be eliminated, and then the Bill will in some sense be made acceptable to the people of Scotland. Short of that nothing will meet the requirements of the case and the wishes of the Scottish people.
§ MR. R. W. DUFF (Banffshire)
I should have been prepared to wait in silence for the next stage of the Bill were it not for the allusion made by the Lord Advocate to some observations of mine in a special speech made to my constituents in Banffshire. I cannot but feel flattered that the right hon. Gentleman should take the trouble to read my Recess speeches, but in this instance he has placed upon my remarks an interpretation I did not intend them to convey. What I intended was this: that in regard to local taxation I desired to see a very broad and liberal system introduced, and all the rates managed by the County Councils. The difficulty is, a certain proportion of the rates is paid exclusively by the landlords; and with regard to this I said, and I still think, that the best way of dealing with the matter is, to get rid of the Commissioners of Supply altogether, and to divide the rates equally between the landlords and the tenants. That is one of the alternatives, but I admitted that if you did that you are bound to relieve tenants under existing leases, leaving them to come to new arrangements at the expiration of their term. The right hon. Gentleman is quite wrong when he says that my right hon. Friend the Member for Sterling (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), myself, and others want to put fresh taxes on the tenants, I contend that that is not the effect of our proposal. The effect 1465 of our proposal would be that when the tenant under an existing lease came to make a new bargain with his landlord, he would get a proportionate reduction from the rent. This would simplify the whole system. I am quite willing to admit that in many parts of Scotland the Government proposal is the more popular of the two, but I know opinion is divided. The whole of the local taxation of Scotland excluding loans comes to about £4,000,000 a year, and the proportion paid by the landlords alone, taking it from the last Return of local taxation, is about £163,000 a year, a very small proportion to the whole taxation, and my contention is that it would be quite worth the tenants' while, in order to obtain a proper representative system, to put that sum equally on the landlords and tenants all over Scotland. It is not correct to say that I would relieve the landlord's burden and place that relief on the shoulders of the tenants, and we who know the Scottish farmer know that he is quite capable of taking care of himself in a bargain, and if he pays so much more for rates he must pay so much less for rent. The Lord Advocate told us in his introductory speech that by and by he would, tell us the number of County Councillors we were to have. I do not remember at what stage the information was given in regard to the English Bill, but it is important we should know as soon as possible. I have heard various rumours, but I think an elastic principle should be applied, a greater number being allowed to the Highland parishes than to a densely populated county like Lanark. I take a county the right hon. Gentleman knows very well, Kincardine and the parish of Fetteresso, as fairly representative. Assuming that there will be a proportion of one Councillor to every 1,000 inhabitants, that would mean that the town of Stonehaven would have two and the rest of the parish would have four. But think what an amount of trouble, expense and machinery you will require to bring this about, and after all you only get rid of one Board, and the duties of the County Council will be insignificant. Those duties I think will have to be extended, and you will have to simplify matters by merging other Boards—I will not say for Educational matters—into the County Council. But 1466 before we proceed much further I hope we shall hear from the Government how many County Councillors we are to have, for that has an important bearing upon the whole of the Bill. There are other points connected with the Bill with which I am indisposed now to occupy time, but there is one omission upon which I may say a word. There is no reference in the Bill to powers which I think ought to be given to districts which include sea-coast towns to provide for harbour works. Former references to this subject, in connection with the fishing industry, have been met with the reply that it is a matter to be considered in relation to a Local Government scheme, and I think it is only right to call the attention of the Lord Advocate to the promises of his predecessor on this question of harbours. I do not want to go into it now, but in Committee I shall seek an opportunity of amending the Bill in this direction, and enlarging the powers of County Councils, especially in towns that have no Local Authority or means of giving collateral security. In burghs it is unnecessary, but the Solicitor General for Scotland is very familiar with Banffshire; we have met there in a political campaign, and he knows that in many small towns there is a want of good harbours but no means of giving security, and what is desired could be effected under this Bill. But I will not dwell upon this. I only rose for the purpose of repudiating the construction put upon my remarks by the Lord Advocate, while at the same time I say that none of those remarks, taken as a whole, do I wish to retract.
* MR. M;LAGAN (Linlithgow)
I will not go into the wide range of subjects that has been opened in the course of this debate, and leaving untouched the questions of education and finance, I will deal with three points—the constituencies of County Councils, the Commissioners of Supply so far as they are concerned in the Bill, and the licensing question which is not dealt with by the Bill. The Government have adopted the Parliamentary franchise, with the addition of female voters and Peers; but I regret that they have placed restrictions upon the service franchise, because service franchise holders do actually pay rates, though they do so indirectly. This 1467 franchise covers a wide range of service, and a large section of miners is included, and these miners pay in rents of these houses their proportion of rates every year. There is some force, however, in the contention that service franchise holders ought to feel the rise and fall in the rates, and it has been suggested that by some arrangement the amount of their rates should be separated from their rents. I would say, let service franchise holders have their names put upon the register as they are for Parliamentary voting purposes, do not compel them to ask for registration, and let the payment of rents and rates be kept separate. The suggestion thrown out by the President of the Local Government Board, I think, is worth consideration, that some arrangements should be made analagous to those for the compound householders in England. I trust the constituencies may be the same for the Parochial Boards and the County Councils. It is a pity the Bill should be made more difficult and complicated by two registers. My second point has reference to the Commissioners of Supply, and I do not see what is the use of maintaining these gentlemen. I have not a word to say against the Commissioners of Supply. They have performed the functions that devolved upon them in the most praiseworthy manner, and the people of Scotland are indebted to them; but we are taking away the greater part of their duties and giving it to the County Council, leaving them simply to form a Joint Committee with the Council for the purpose of stereotyping the rates now raised. I agree with my right hon. Friend (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) that this system should be done away with. I think it would simplify matters very much if, instead of stereotyping the sum paid at present by the Commissioners of Supply, one-half of the rate were in future to fall upon the landlord and the other half on the tenant, taking care, however, that the rights of existing leaseholders should be respected. From the speech made by the Lord Advocate, I do not gather that he is averse to changing the incident of rates in this manner. I do not care much about the incidence of taxation. We may make that incidence what we like; it will always come back to this, that the property is taxed, not the individual. 1468 The tax must fall back ultimately upon the property. Whether you put it in the first instance upon the tenant or upon the the landlord, the property pays in the long run. Of course, as I said before, in making this change in the incidence of taxation, the rights of tenants holdings under existing leases must be respected. The proposition can be supported by what is done in England. In England the tenants pay all the rates; in Scotland, with the exception of the Parochial Board, rates, and school fees, the landlords pay the rates. When a tenant comes to offer for a farm he takes this into account, and hence it is that farms in England are supposed to be lower rented than farms in Scotland. But this is simply because in England the tenant pays the rates to a far greater extent than the tenant in Scotland does. We have express precedents for what I am suggesting in previous legislation. In 1872 the Education Act was passed, and previous to the passing of that Act the burden of taxes for education fell entirely upon the landlords; but by that Act the burden became divided between the landlord and the tenant. It cannot be demurred to this, that we propose to relieve the landlord from his share. Actually, he will not be relieved; it will simply be a change in the mode of payment. Another precedent is the "Roads" Act. Before that Act was passed the tolls, turnpikes, and statute labour roads were paid principally by tenants, but that Act divided the expenditure between tenants and landlords. In this instance the tenants were relieved, but not the landlords, because I think I am not beyond the mark when I say that at the present time the landlords pay three or four times more for the maintenance of roads than they did before the Roads Act passed. Having these two precedents, why should not we follow them? We insist upon retaining Commissioners of Supply with the effect of stereotyping the present rate. You might as well stereotype the sums paid by the heritors for schools, or sums for statute labour by the tenants; undoubtedly it will simplify matters very much to divide rates as suggested. My next point is with reference to licenses. Very little has been said on this during the debate; but we were told by the Lord 1469 Advocate in his introductory speech that, speaking generally, the purpose of the Bill was to extend Municipal Government to counties. Well, if you are going to extend Municipal Government to counties, why not give County Councils power and authority for licensing such as is enjoyed in burghs. Of course, to do this you require to elect a certain number of Magistrates to the Council in the same way as at the present time they serve in burghs for licensing purposes. It is said that the system has failed in burghs, but that is not on account of the local Magistrates and their administration; it is due to County Magistrates to whom decisions have been appealed. The local Magistrates have given effect to the wishes of the people; the County Magistrates have not done so, and the result has been the granting of many licenses we think should not have been granted, and much popular dissatisfaction. I have no fear of the result of extending Municipal Government to counties in this particular, nor can I see any ground for making a distinction between County Councils and Town Councils. It is a point, I think, we should insist upon, that the new County Councils should have all the powers at present enjoyed by the Justices in burghs. There is another point not to be overlooked. We should endeavour, if licences are to be granted by County Councils, to provide that the duty arising from licenses for the sale of intoxicating liquors should, if possible, be taken out of the rates and paid into the Consolidated Fund. For if we are to have County Council licenses there will be a tendency to encourage the issue of licenses for the sake of reducing the rates. I have nothing further to say at this stage, much remains to be disposed of in Committee, and I hope the result of our discussion will be that we shall be prepared to address ourselves to the task of making this as efficient a measure as it is possible.
§ DR. McDONALD (Ross and Cromarty)
I desire to refer to one or two points, but I will not emphasize or dwell upon them. In common with other Scotch Members I have received representations from my constituents, and representations running pretty much in the same groove. In the first place 1470 they desire one roll of voters for all electoral purposes. That is a point they put in the foreground of their representations. Another point my constituents are very strong upon is the service franchise without restrictions. They also wish the County Councils should have the control of education, the Poor Laws, licensing, the making of roads, the buying of land and allotting it to the people, the making of piers and harbours, and the levying of dues for the use of them. Another point particularly desired by the people in the Highlands is that the expenses of members in coming from great distances to attend the meetings of the County Councils should be paid. The Lord Advocate said just now he thought that though we urged fully various matters under the County Council, we did not formulate any plan of how the duties were to be discharged. But surely the right hon. Gentleman remembers there are to be District or Parochial Councils, and there could be nothing simpler than to place educational matters in the hands of the Parish Council. I do not anticipate there would be any difficulty. There is one point I do not think has yet been touched, a small point the Lord Advocate might take into consideration between now and the Committee stage, and that is putting the charge of churchyards on the County Councils. They are now in the hands of the Charities, but I think the County Council would be the proper body to have control. The feeling in my constituency is strongly in favour of abolishing the Board of Supervision. They say the Board of Supervision is a "one-horse chaise," that it is one man who has control of the whole of the Local Boards of Scotland, and they object to this very much indeed. We know from information that has been put before us in this House, that the Board of Supervision is practically one man. There is another, to us, important point on which much has not been said, the question of single and double member's constituencies. From some parts of Inverness it might be necessary for a councillor to travel 130 miles to attend a Council meeting, and in bad weather it might often be that the district would be unrepresented at the Council for weeks together. I would suggest to the 1471 Government that they should extend to the Highlands similar exceptional treatment to that which they propose to allow Orkney and Shetland The people are willing that the out-of-pocket expense of going immense distances to the Council Meetings should be borne by the rates. Furthermore it is held to be objectionable to risk the break in continuity involved in all the members of a County Council retiring at the same time. It would be far better that one-third of the members should retire annually, as in the case of the English Councils. The simultaneous retirement of all members would produce a state of chaos, and place new members at the mercy of the permanent staff. The last point to which I would refer is one upon which I have already had a conversation with the Lord Advocate. In my county, which is called "Ross and Cromarty," there are two Divisions. Cromarty is only a tongue of land, yet it has Commissioners of Supply. I think it would be better that the two Divisions should be dealt with as one county.
§ * SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy)
Mr. Speaker, after the Lord Advocate had made his speech in introducing the Bill, I expressed a difference of opinion on the subject, and I may say that since I have seen the Bill I am of the same opinion, only more so. Though the Bill contains a good principle of representation, as I have said before, it is a very small measure. The English Local Government Bill was brought in with a great flourish of trumpets, and it was proposed to give large powers to the County Councils. In the course of the discussion those powers evaporated in one clause, which gave the several Departments of the Government the power to spare some of their powers to the County Council. And I am very much disappointed that in this Scotch Bill we have the same clause that we had in the English Bill, except that the time of the transference of the powers to the County Council is more indefinite. It seems to me that the powers of the Scotch County Councils are very small indeed, so small that when they have delegated to the District Councils their functions relating to roads, they will have nothing to look after but the lunatic asylums. Some hon. Members have expressed the hope that larger powers will be given to the 1472 County Councils and taken away from the parishes, which have the administration of education and the Poor Law. I entirely disagree with that view. I am not in favour of centralization. I want to see as much as possible decentralization. It would, I have no doubt, be a very good thing if the County Councils had some supervision over the education of the county. But I do not sympathize with the agitation which has been got up by the schoolmasters, whose main object is simply to emancipate themselves from the control of the Parish Council, and to place themselves under a higher authority. I do not approve, therefore, of giving to the County Council powers which are now well exercised by the Parish Boards in Scotland. With regard to the centralization of the Poor Law, I cannot help feeling that its administration by the District Council is the English Union under another name; it would be an imitation of the English system, which we do not like in Scotland. Though there may be defects in the Scotch Poor Law system, still upon the whole I think it is kindlier and more effective than the English system, and for the money expended greater relief is afforded. I should be very sorry indeed to see a transformation of the Scotch Poor Law system into the English system. To that extent I am jealous of seeing the District Council entrusted with the administration of the Poor Law. As regards the transfer of the powers of sanitation, also, I view with very great jealousy the proposals of this Bill to abolish altogether the administrative functions of the Parochial Boards, and the transfer of those functions to the District Councils. I have no doubt there is a great deal to be said in regard to the want of sanitation as exercised by some of the rural Poor Law Authorities. There are gentlemen who are very keen for an excessive amount of sanitary provisions. They would establish a kind of sanitary despotism, and I admit that in some instances too little is done. Still I should be very unwilling to transfer the powers of these authorities to the district Councils, or to see them in any degree centralised. I wish very much to see rural life take the communal form; I want to see every village administer its own affairs, as in other parts of the world. Although many 1473 parishes may be so rural, or so small in numbers and area as not to afford sufficient basis for such a form of self-government, yet there are considerable places, many of them having no organization of their own. A good many considerable places until recently had no municipal powers, and many have not got them yet. I view with very considerable regret the absorption of all the powers under the County Council. I have much sympathy with the petitions and remonstrances which have been addressed to this House on the part of these very considerable Parish Authorities, who very much dread that their control of their own affairs, including sanitation and other matters, should be taken away from them. I do hope before this Bill leaves the House that we may have some provision by which village government may be established, and we must not give way to these sanitary people by establishing a Central Sanitary. Authority. Well, then, with regard to the subject of the franchise. I join with almost every Scotch Member, on both sides of the House, in regretting that the Government have not seen their way to putting the franchise of the County Council on the same footing as the Parliamentary franchise. That would have simplified matters in every way. Of course, the great bone of contention is the service franchise. I think the view that the service franchisemen would overwhelm the other voters is an entire mistake in fact. I have looked over the valuation roll of the county of Fife, where, perhaps, more than in any other county of Scotland, the service franchise prevails. I admit I was greatly surprised to find such a very large number of service franchisemen, and, compared with the farmers, no doubt they are in very much larger numbers than the farmers, whom no doubt they would overwhelm if you looked at the farmers only. I find in the Cupar district of the county of Fife that there are 260 farms, on which there are 728 service-holders. But on the other hand there are altogether 6,469 subjects numbered on the valuation roll of that particular part. In the Cupar district I find that out of upwards of 5,000 voters there are about 990 who would come under the service franchise, or something less than 20 per 1474 cent of the whole; consequently it is an entire mistake to suppose that they will swamp the other voters. On the contrary it seems to me that in justice to the agricultural interest these agricultural service holders ought to have votes, because if you exclude them the agricultural influence of the farmers and the lairds will be entirely overwhelmed by the people in the villages. Not only is the county of Fife a fair specimen to adduce, but I think that every county north of the Forth would be at least as favourable to my argument. The same thing may, I believe, be said of the southern counties, where probably the greatest tendency to a predominance of service holders would be found in Berwickshire. I think it would greatly simplify the Bill if the Government would consent to put the franchise for the County Councils on the same footing as the Parliamentary franchise. I think it would also be desirable if, at the same time, the women's franchise could be omitted from the Bill; though as the Government propose to admit women I suppose they must be included. I trust, however, that the Lord Advocate has not left any loophole in the measure by which he women can creep in to the Council, and I hope that before the Bill passes this House we shall have an assurance that no loop-hole of that kind has been overlooked. With regard to the question of education, I can only join in the chorus of general satisfaction expressed as to the proposals of the Government as far as they go. Congratulations have been offered to the hon. Member for Aberdeen. When he proposed to vote this money for free education I confess the proposition was new to me, and I took several seconds to consider it; but after I had given it that consideration I had no hesitation in appending my name to it. The way in which the proposal of the Government has been received in Scotland is surprising. It has been hailed with the greatest enthusiasm by the Scottish people. The subject has always been with them a popular one, but until recently I had no idea how popular it really was. The people of Scotland rushed, as it were, to express their approbation of it, and it is clear to me that the Government have now taken a step from which they cannot go back. They 1475 will not only have to carry out the proposal already made, but they will have to go much further in order to make elementary education altogether free. It is not for me to go into the question as to the mode in which the money is to be provided; but I repeat that the Government having committed themselves so far cannot possibly go back. It will be impossible for them to free the first three stages of elementary education and to impose high fees in the remaining stages. To do this would be to put a penalty on the poor man who tries to give his boy the opportunity of acquiring a decent education, and it may be said that some of those who would be unable to pay the fees for the higher standards might say to their children—"Take care you do not go beyond the Third Standard, because I cannot afford to pay for the standards beyond that." I feel assured that when the proposal of the Government has been adopted, England will follow suit in declaring the necessity of freeing elementary education. With regard to the question of the supervision of the police, it seems to me that the matter stands in a different position in Scotland to that which it occupies in England. In England there is no one corresponding to our Scotch Sheriff. The Justices of the Peace are the commanders of the police in England, but in Scotland the Sheriff is the real head of the police. Under the circumstances, I see no objection to giving the function of finding the ways and means to the County Authorities. It is totally unnecessary to keep up a division merely as regards the supply of ways and means. As to the control of loans, it is clear that somebody must control them. I think it a dangerous thing to allow the people of this generation to lay heavy burdens on the next. I have every confidence in public bodies so long as they have to provide the payment for the improvements they make, but I object to the authorities of the present day putting too much on the shoulders of those who are to come. If you get rid of the Commissioners of Supply, some other authority will have to be substituted in order that a check may be placed on the abuse of the power of borrowing money. There is one question in which I am a good deal interested. I allude to the small burghs of less than 1476 7,000 population, mentioned in this Bill. I confess I am not quite able to understand the Bill in regard to this matter, and I shall reserve my opinion as to its effects on the small burghs until the question can be threshed out in Committee. I hope to see the County Councils invested with much larger powers than they are to receive under this Bill as it now stands, so that by their action we may be able to do away, to some extent at least, with the congestion of business in this House. I want to see in the County Councils large and dignified bodies, and should think it advisable for this purpoee to unite the counties of Fife, Ross, and Clackmannan, those of Forfar and Kincardine, and the smaller counties also between Banff and Inverness. These are the only points to which I wish to refer in regard to the Bill itself. Allusion has been made to the Burgh Police Bill, and I must say that I cannot concur in the regret which has been expressed at its failure to pass into law. I think it must be reduced to about one-tenth of its present size before it will become an acceptable Bill. I only wish to add, as regards the future course of this Bill, that I regret the Government have intimated that they mean to reject the reasonable and moderate proposal which has been made to submit it to a Committee in which the Scotch Members shall have a preponderating voice. The Government evidently desire to refer to a Committee on which Scotch Members will be a minority, and I think we are bound to resist that proposal to the uttermost. We shall have to consider whether we can give the Bill a Second Reading in the absence of any understanding with the Government on this point. I believe the Bill contains a good principle, but that principle is not sufficiently developed, and I hope that in Committee we shall be able to improve it to a very considerable extent. I should like to see the Scotch Members have a very considerable share in shaping this Bill into a proper form.
§ MR. P. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E)
Sir, when this Bill was introduced, I joined in the general chorus of satisfaction and pleasure at hearing the Liberal speech delivered by the learned Lord Advocate on the occasion; and since I have seen the Bill, I have not lessened in one iota my admiration of 1477 that speech, for I cannot too much admire the way in which the Lord Advocate was enabled to make so little go so far. The Bill, so far as I am able to analyze it, does not in itself contain anything more than a good groundwork for future operations; and before I deal with the measure, perhaps I may be allowed to say a word or two in regard to the administration of the police. I have had for twenty years the administration of a large force of police, and the learned Lord Advocate was scarcely accurate in saying that in any burgh the control of the police is under the Lord Provost and Sheriff. The burghs in Scotland have accepted from the Government half of the pay for the administration of the police, and in doing so they have very properly submitted that the Government should have a representative who has a voice in the administration of the force. The Sheriff is the representative of the Government in that matter, and he certainly has a voice in the appointment of superintendents of police. The usual course in burghs is this: The choice of a superintendent is made by the Magistrates and Provost, while the Sheriff, on behalf of the Government, satisfies himself that the appointment is a satisfactory one, and he gives his approbation or disapprobation in regard to it. But a most important function comes in in the administration by a Town Council, which has practically power over the police. They settle what the number of the force shall be, and they provide the means for their appointment, and having as a Council the ways and means to provide, they have an active, wholesome, and necessary control over the police. It is quite well-known that in all large towns there is what is called a Police Committee, who have not perhaps the appointment of the Superintendent, but they have, in point of fact, a very considerable control over the police administration. That being so, I submit to the learned Lord Advocate whether there is any necessity whatsoever for departing from the arrangement which has worked so well in the large burghs, of allowing the control of the police, subject to the same restrictions and regulations, to be put under the County Council. Now, Sir, speaking for that part of the country with which I am best acquainted, I 1478 would put it to the Lord Advocate whether, in respect to the city and county of Aberdeen, or in respect to any city situate in any county in Scotland, there is not in the cities more abundantly that kind of population which it might be, at least in the eyes of any Conservative Administrator, less desirable to entrust with the control of the police than the population in the counties. You have gathering together in the large cities a very large population. I think that any fear which might have existed in the mind of anyone as to giving the control of the police to popularly-elected bodies would have developed itself in large cities had it existed anywhere whatsoever; and seeing that the system has worked eminently satisfactorily in all large burghs throughout Scotland, I cannot see why there should be any fear of giving that administration which Town Councils now have to County Councils in the country. Now, Sir, there is one part of this Bill in which my hon. Colleague the Member for West Aberdeenshire has a very deep interest, and that is with regard to the service franchise. Now, I do not take upon myself to speak for the mining population. In the North of Scotland we have no mining population, but still we have a large service vote. We have agricultural labourers of a class which I hope I may, without disrespect to any part of the country, describe as the most intelligent, the most law-abiding, and the most solid and respectable class of agricultural labourers that is to be found in any part of the kingdom. These agricultural labourers were for a very long time denied all rights of citizenship; but in 1885 we admitted them to the Imperial franchise. Now, the agricultural labourer is less interested, if I may say so, in the Imperial Government of the country than he is in his local citizenship, and I deprecate in strong terms the action of the Lord Advocate in permitting this Bill to put a disability upon the agricultural labourers in Scotland and upon the service vote in the counties of Scotland which it does not deserve, for the labourer has proved himself throughout the country a law-abiding and God-fearing citizen. He has done his duty to the country by hard labour and by reclaiming from the wastes of Scotland 1479 productive land; he has been a person who, in many cases, has raised himself from the position of an agricultural labourer to be a small holder, and in a few cases a considerable farmer; and I ask what the service vote has done, what the agricultural labourer in the large county of Aberdeenshire has done, that under this Local Government Bill he should be treated as a person who is not to be trusted in the administration of local affairs? Now, Sir, I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for the Partick Division of Lanarkshire in saying that he is a taxpayer. I challenge the Solicitor General for Scotland to say whether I am not right when I put it to the House in this way. We have three classes of agricultural labourers; we have the labourer who lives in the village and has there his wife and children; you cannot deprive him of his vote. You have the class of agricultural labourer who has his cottage provided for him on the farm; he can probably secure his vote by asking to be put upon the renting franchise; and with regard to the wages of these men, the man who has no house provided for him is more highly paid, while he who has a house provided for him on the farm certainly has the value of his house deducted from his wages; therefore his rent is paid for him through the farmer, because undoubtedly the farmer takes it into consideration when he makes the engagement with the man. But we have another class of agricultural labourer in Aberdeenshire. We have the farmer who provides accommodation for unmarried servants on the farm; they have the use of the kitchen and probably of a sleeping department, and this is counted in the wages. Through the employer they labour for they pay taxes, and if you admit these men to the Imperial franchise, I am sure there is no hon. Member in this House representing country constituencies who could with any force and with conscienctous conviction say that they are not fit to be admitted into citizenship and to have the franchise vote. I hope that the learned Lord Advocate and those associated with him in the promotion of the Bill will favourably consider this matter and give the service franchise. Now, Sir, I have said that this Bill is to me disappointing in its extent. I understood 1480 that an attempt was to be made to reduce the number of administrative bodies in the counties and to simplify the collection of taxes and thereby secure a more efficient administration and more economy in the management of county affairs. Well, Sir, I find that in this Bill we do away with the Road Board and also with the Administrative Board selected in regard to the Contagious Diseases Animals Act. We have, then, so far as I can see, taken away two Administrative Boards; but in taking them away, what do we put in place of them? Raised up in place of the Boards we are taking away we have two other Boards, the Local Government Board, and a Hybrid Board consisting partly of proprietors, partly of the representatives of proprietors, and partly of representatives of the tenants. We have, therefore, no reduction whatever, and we have only got a much more complicated machinery in the place of the two Boards which we have done away with. We have also departed from what I believed to be one of the main objects of the County Council Bill—namely, the simplification of the register. It was hoped we should get a simple register instead of one of complexity; but this Bill by no means simplifies matters. Now, Sir, I should like to notice one or two things which I think are very important, and which are not dealt with in this Bill. When the Liberal Government were in power I frequently had to call attention to what I think is a scandal on the East Coast of Scotland, and that is the tenure of the fisherman's buildings along the coast. I was told from time to time that this matter could not be dealt with in the Crofters Bill or in any other Bill before the House; but that the proper time to raise it would be on the Local Government Bill. But, Sir, now the Bill has been brought in, I find no notice whatever of this important subject in the Bill. I am sure the Lord Advocate could not have been in the North-East of Scotland without noticing that this is a subject which must be dealt with in the near future, and I want him to say why he has not dealt with it in this Bill. Then, Sir, we have at any rate in Aberdeenshire another important subject to which we wish attention to be given, and that is the question of allotments for agricultural labourers. 1481 I am sorry to see that there is no provision in this Bill for the County Council to deal with the question of allotments. It is a question which, indeed, affects every county. Circumstances differ in different counties throughout the country, and I am not sure the right hon. Gentleman would be able to introduce any measure which could have a general application to the different counties, and therefore I think it would have been an immense improvement if the County Councils in Scotland had had power given to them to deal with this subject. And there is another important branch of this subject. I thought there was considerable excuse for the Lord Advocate in not dealing with the subject of education. I have had many petitions, many letters, and many overtures with regard to putting education in the counties under County Councils, and when the Bill was brought in I admitted that the subject of education was one of such extent that there was considerable excuse for its omission from the measure. But although I admitted that general fact, I must say I can see no reason whatever, seeing that the Lord Advocate has dealt with Parochial Boards, why he should not have considered the propriety of putting together the administration of the Poor Law and of education. I do not think that there is any such difference between the administration of education in Scotland and the administration of the Poor Law, as should have kept these two subjects asunder, if they were not to be dealt with in the general County Council. Now, Sir, I said before, and I now repeat, that on behalf of my constituency, I have the strongest possible desire that we, as representatives of Scotch constituencies, should give every possible assistance in making this Bill as good and as satisfactory as possible. I deprecate very strongly that we should merely set up a shadow of a great administration, and that it should be necessary to carry on the agitation with regard to the service franchise and with regard to the administration of education. I hope, indeed, in regard to these subjects that the representations which will come from the constituencies will be so powerful and so unanimous in favour of widening the scope of this Bill, that the Lord Advocate may be in- 1482 duced to keep an open mind upon the subject. There is great indifference of feeling in regard to all parts of this Bill, with the exception of education. On that matter there is a universally keen feeling, and I think it would be well worth while for the Government to consider whether they cannot at any rate extend their proposals on this point. Still, if nothing more is done by this Bill than the giving of free education to the three lower standards, the measure would have been well worth introducing. But I do appeal to the learned Lord Advocate, if he does not want Scotland to lag behind in the matter of education, not to stop at three standards, but extend the gift to the higher classes. I quite agree with those who say that it would be infinitely better for the education of Scotland to apply the money to the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Standards than to the First, Second, and Third, the fees for which are not so heavily felt as are those of the other standards. But I hope that if it should be found impossible to provide out of Imperial funds the amount necessary to free at least the first five standards, there will be no squeamishness in saying that the localities must bear the very slight additional burden necessary to make education perfectly free to all members of society. As to the incidence of taxation, I think the Lord Advocate misrepresented my right hon. Friend the Member for Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) in saying he proposed to throw on the occupying tenants of Scotland £100,000 of additional taxation. What my right hon. Friend said was that with regard to existing leases we should allow the taxation to be paid by the landlords as it is now, but that in all future bargains both occupier and proprietor should be subject to the equitable and fair principle that local taxation should be evenly divided between them, so that each should have an interest in economy and good administration. I am quite aware that no taxation is popular, but I am not so much the partizan of either the tenants or the proprietors as to say that it is not the best interests of the country or of good administration that every one should feel the pinch of a large amount of taxation if a large amount be necessary. We understand that the Government are keeping up the Commissioners of Supply for no other purpose than to 1483 represent the large amount of taxation paid by the proprietors, and I hope that in re-considering this matter they will put an end to the existence of the Commissioners of Supply, which ought, I think, at once and for ever to cease to exist. I hope those in charge of the Bill will keep their minds open, and that we may be able to co-operate with them in passing this Bill in such a shape that it will settle Scotch Local Government for many years to come. Although the measure has been much criticized, there has not been much difference among the Scotch Members on both sides of the House as to its main features. In fact, there is practical unanimity, and I am sure that if the Government will assist the Scotch Members to make this Bill such an one as will settle the question for many years, they will bring honour on themselves and do much to allay the feeling which I believe is growing up in this House that we are dominated by Members representing other than Scotch constituencies—a feeling which is creating a desire for Home Rule in Scotland. That desire for Home Rule can probably be averted for a considerable number of years to come if this Bill is amended in accordance with the wishes of the Scotch Members.
§ * SIR LYON PLAYFAIR (Leeds, S.)
I have delayed speaking on this Bill until the last few minutes of the Debate, for though I had the honour of being a Scotch Member for 17 years, that honour exists no longer. During the time I represented a Scotch constituency, however, I naturally took great interest in, and had some experience in, regard to Scotch education. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate rather deprecated our speaking too much on the subject of education in connection with this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has no idea of the vast experiment he is making by this Bill in the matter of education. For the first time in this country he is making an experiment in free education. If the experiment is badly carried ont, much harm will be done to the future of education in the United Kingdom; if, on the other hand, the experiment is wisely made, an enormous benefit will result to the country. On that account I think the question of education is probably the most important part of the Bill. One would have thought that in 1484 making this experiment the Government would have, at all events, brought the experience of other countries to bear on the point. The experiments made abroad have been, except in France for the last year or two, entirely in the opposite system. In Germany, which is probably the model country for an enlightened system of education, the custom has been to make the lower standards of education entirely dependent on the localities, and not on State aid, and although it is part of the Constitution of Germany that education should be free, practically they have not been able to carry it out all over the country, and it only exists in large towns. In the country districts school fees are taken from the children. In this country, however, the reverse system has been adopted. The State has largely aided primary education, while it has done nothing for secondary education. In France, until quite recently, the State has intervened only in the upper branches of education, and has left the lower branches entirely to the locality. What has been the effect of this system in England? The result of State aid in the lower branches has been to waste the resources which we lavish with such indiscriminate zeal upon the education of the country. Any child who gets no farther than the three standards has had the money of the State spent upon him unnecessarily and wastefully. The child gets a thin veneer of education, which rubs off with the wear and tear of life in two or three years, and the education then exists no longer. And what has the State done in order to try to remedy this? We found we were wasting all our money, and we therefore brought in factory legislation, and said that no child should go to labour until it had passed Standards IV. and V. What, then, are you doing by this Bill? You are stereotyping all that is bad in our educational system by giving State aid for the lower standards. If the Government intend to confine this experiment of free education to the lower standards, it will, in my judgment, be better for Scotland to have no such grant of money given to it as is here proposed for liberating the three lower standards and leaving the upper standards uncared for, because the Government are giving this relief at a time 1485 when fees are low and when parents are able to exercise their parental responsibility. But when the pressure becomes great in consequence of the Factory Laws, they do not aid the parents, whom they have allowed to get accustomed to pay no fees in the lower standards. Two-thirds of the children are in the lower standards, and the fees paid for them amount to £155,000. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate says that the plan of the Government is to wipe off school fees when they press most heavily. But it is not true that they press most heavily in the lower standards. The fees press least heavily when they are low and the parents are able to pay them. One-third of the children paid £161,000 in Standards V., V., and VI., as against the £155,000 paid by the two-thirds in the lower standards. Therefore, the Government are giving educational relief where it is least needed, and refusing it where it is most required. The Government are giving £16,000 plus £4,000 or £5,000, arising from educational endowments set free, or at the utmost £21,000, to assist the £161,000 which the children in the higher standards now pay. That is no great aid to the parents when they feel the pressure heaviest upon them. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) the other day said, very tersely, that the Government had to consider whether education would stop where free education stops. That is exactly what will happen. You are holding out a great inducement to stop the education of the children at the three lower standards. All children should have got through Standard III. at 10 years of age, but not less than 41 per cent of the whole number do not pass the Third Standard until they are above 10 years of age. Thus it is obvious the tendency is already to stop at the lower standards. What, I ask, would happen when the parent suddenly felt that he must pay for the higher standard out of his own pocket. Of course, the inducement would be for him to keep the child in the lower standards, where it gets the education for nothing. I think that when the Government come to look at this matter fairly, they will see that partially free education is an absurdity. They cannot stop 1486 at partially free education. They must make all the standards of primary education perfectly free, or they will injure education very much. Assuming that the Government will only give £171,000, they can still promote the education of the Scotch people in the old way, which was always to aim at a higher education. It is this higher education which has made them so successful in life all over the world. The Government can still promote education on the old lines by leaving to the parental responsibility the three lower standards, and applying the grant to the upper standards. That will be consistent with the genius and the habits of the Scotch people, and will induce them to go on with the education of their children. You know perfectly well from your education Reports that an increased stimulus is required for the upper standards. For instance, last year 55,000 children went up for examination in Standard V. There ought to have been the same number for Standard VI., but Standard VI. is no longer necessary to give exemption from labour, and only 25,000 went up for examination in that standard. The great success of our system of education has been that there has been a ladder from the gutter to the highest Universities. Every child knows that if he has talents he may go to the Universities to study, and the Universities in Scotland are the Universities of the people and not the Universities of the rich. The difference between the Scotch and the English Universities is that in the English Universities they teach the rich man to spend £1,000 a year, with dignity and intelligence: in the Scotch Universities they teach a poor man to earn £1,000 a year, with dignity and intelligence. The Government by their present proposal will cut off all the rungs of the ladder leading upwards, and may even destroy the system of education which has made Scotland a great and a happy nation.
Question put, and agreed to.
Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill he committed to a Committee of the whole House."—(The Lord Advocate.)
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith, &c.)
I beg to move as an Amendment, 1487That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee composed of all the Scottish Representatives and thirty other Members to be nominated by the Committee of Selection; that the provisions of Standing Order 50 shall apply to all Bills reported by the said Committee.This Motion has been somewhat altered since I first placed it on the Paper. For my part I am disposed to regret that the alteration has been made. I think that 72 Scotch Members are amply sufficient upon the Committee, and that such a Committee would be sufficiently large even for a House of 670 Members. If the 72 Members were not all Scotchmen that is all the more reason for not adding any additional Members. I acknowledge that from the point of view of Parliamentary expediency there may be a great deal of weight in the proposal to add a certain number of other Members of the House to the Committee, although as a proposal has already been made and voted upon that there should be a Standing Scotch Committee for Scotch Bills, I cannot see that there was any particular reason to propose a Committee entirely composed of Scotch Members for considering the Scotch Local Government Bill. But there are other reasons which, if they have not been realized by hon. Members, will, I think, influence them in favour of a step being taken in that direction. We have not only the feeling of Scotland, which has been so well described by my hon. Friend who has just spoken, but we have before us proposals which will very seriously affect the Parliamentary and other representative institutions of the country. These proposals have hitherto, no doubt, been restricted very much to one-portion of the United Kingdom, but at the same time I would say it will not do to restrict our vision altogether merely to the requirements of Ireland. The Federal idea is fast gaining ground in the country, and however varying may be the needs in the different portions of the kingdom, the policy upon which we are embarked, and from which we shall never recede, will involve attention being given to the progress of affairs and to the future of the Parliamentary system at home. 1488 The expediency of relieving the House of a portion of the burden of considering these Bills in Committee has already been appreciated by Her Majesty's, Government, inasmuch as it has been proposed to refer No. 2 Bill to the Law Committee. The motive for doing so is not difficult to find. At first, no doubt, there was a desire to save the time of the House. That has been illustrated in the course of this Debate. Scotch Members have not had many opportunities lately of expressing their views in the House of Commons. They have been bottled up, with the result that most of them wished to speak and have spoken at very considerable length. No doubt it would be very desirable to restore the efficiency of Parliament for carrying through its work, and the Chief Secretary for Ireland gave cogent reasons in favour of a reference of thin nature when he said he looked at the measure from the point of view of Scotland, and that it should be passed into law taking into consideration the wants, of that particular part of the kingdom. The reasons against a Committee of the whole House are numerous. There will be a vast and unnecessary expenditure of time on a Local Scotch Bill, a subject which in many of its details, if not, indeed, in its entirety, does not seem to command the sympathy of Members of nationalities other than the Scotch. When this Debate was initiated by the admirable speech of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) I do not think there were a dozen men of other than Scotch nationality in the House, and since then it has been a steadily diminishing quantity. The system of Scotch Local Government is entirely different from that of England, and as has been pointed out over and over again English Members would be entirely at sea in considering the details of Scotch Local Government. So far as the attendance of English Members is concerned it will be largely increased a little later on, but that not so much for the sake of looking after Scotch affairs as because of the prevalence of the idea that a modification of the Standing Order may imperil the dignity of Parliament and the unity of the Empire. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House frequently refers to a desire on the part of the Government to 1489 get on with their work, and now we offer the Government an opportunity for their doing so. We make this proposition entirely in the interest of the Government. If we wished to obstruct we should certainly hold for a Committee of the whole House, which I think must have been devised for the purpose of obstruction. If our proposition made in the interest of public business be rejected, then the waste of time and the inevitable failure of Parliament to undertake questions requiring settlement for the legitimate demands of the whole country will rest on the head of an incompetent Administration. Assuming that this devolution is desirable on this subject, what are the alternatives to the proposals now made? A Select Committee to consist entirely of Scotch Members would be of almost unheard of size, but there is absolutely no use in doing the same work twice over, and probably if the Committee did not include all the Scotch Members, we should have those who were excluded taking advantage of the return of the Bill to this House to reconsider its details. I myself should have been glad enough to have escaped from the Committee work on the English Local Government Bill, and I am not sure that anything I did or said at all influenced the character of that measure. But I do not think the Government would have been prepared to exclude any English Member from the discussion on that Bill, and yet it is equivalent to what they are now proposing to do as regards the Scotch Bill. The Supplementary Bill, Bill No. 2, is to be referred to a Select Committee on Law, upon which there are about nine Scotch Members, and two of them I am sure were not born north of the Tweed. I will not go into the question of Standing Committees, but let any hon. Member look at the list of the Committees and he will find that perhaps half of the Members have never been to Scotland, and know nothing of the country. Another objection to the Standing Committee is that the discussions are imperfectly reported, and we should have questions decided by a body of Members prejudiced against the sentiment dominant in Scotland, or incapable of judging between the majority and minority of Scotch Members. On this side of the House there will be the 1490 most strenuous opposition to any proposal, to refer any portion of these Bills to a Standing Committee of this character. If this Motion is not accepted by the Government, we shall demand a Committee of the whole House, where at all events every Scotch Member can speak and vote, and where at all events the debate will be followed, and in this case the waste of time must fall on the shoulders of the Government. The advantages of accepting my motion are apparent. We hold this to be a question exclusively Scottish in its character, in which Scottish Members alone are interested, and the details of which they alone are capable of judging. We relieve the House of an unnecessary burden. Scotch business will be efficiently despatched, and the Scottish people will have the satisfaction of knowing that the Bill is laid before the House in a form a majority of their representatives approve. In spite of all these advantages to the Scotch people, all the peculiarities of a centralized system so deeply cherished by Her Majesty's Government would be preserved, because the Report of the Committee being made to the House, the majority of the House may treat that Report as they are disposed. In my opinion the Government will incur very serious responsibility if they reject this proposition. There are some Members on this side of the House who would not be sorry to see the Government reject this Motion, because there is a large section in Scotland which demands very much more extreme measures in relation to the conduct of Scottish affairs, who desire that public feeling in Scotland should be still more aroused in order that still more drastic remedies may be applied, and in view of the attitude the Government have assumed towards our affairs, these extremes we should not be at all loth to support. But you can make a concession to our wishes and advance Scotch affairs without violation to the most cherished prejudices of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I have said the Government will incur great responsibility by the rejection of this proposal, and a larger amount of responsibility will rest upon those Liberal Members who sitting on this side support the Government. It will be interesting to know what reasons they can urge against the proposal, for 1491 I do not know that the result of any recent elections in the North justify their opposition. It may be urged that such a Motion constitutes a danger to a strong central legislative and executive control, that it is inconsistent with the maintenance of that control, that it is a revival of the Heptarchy, and so forth. Hon. Members who take that view are very fond of talking about Imperial interests, and the greatness of the Empire is their stock pot from which they draw material for their speeches in the country, but how can Imperial affairs be adequately attended to if this House is made the cockpit of every trifling local concern? I shall be curious to know what chimera it is that floats across the ideas of those who fear the results of local control. If England and Ireland have done their share in building up the Empire, I may claim that Scotland has done more than her proportion. Governors and great captains have been sent from Scotland and have successfully conducted great Imperial affairs in all quarters of the globe. There is no part of the United Kingdom where the British flag is more thoroughly upheld, where hope in the great destiny of the great English-speaking race is more firmly planted, than in Scotland. But we recognise in the North that for the Empire to be sound there must be soundness to the core, and no difficulties of internal administration and efficiency. It is in the belief that these aims may be achieved and our historical position maintained that we, the people of Scotland, demand the fullest freedom for internal usefulness, not only for ourselves, but in the interest of every part of the United Kingdom.
Amendment proposed,To leave out the words 'Committee of the whole House,' in order to add the words 'Select Committee composed of all the Scottish Representatives and Thirty other Members to be nominated by the Committee of Selection.That the provisions of Standing Order 50 shall apply to all Bills reported by the said Committee."—(Mr. Munro Ferguson.)—instead thereof.
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question."
§ Mr. R. T. REID (Dumfries)
In a very few words I desire to second the Amendment of my hon. Friend. What we wish to avert by this Motion is the practice of English Members coming in, not having taken part in and not having heard the debate, and, upon important questions affecting our own country, voting us down though we express almost unanimously the sentiment of the people of Scotland whom we represent. I am sorry to say this practice has been adopted in this Parliament more frequently than in former Parliaments, and I am confident that out of it has arisen much dissatisfaction in Scotland. The proposal of my hon. Friend has been modified from its original scope, and I for one regret the modification. It is not that I doubt the ability and straightforwardness of English Members who will be added to the Committee; on the contrary, I should hail the presence of English Members on all general questions, but this is pre-eminently a Scotch question, dealing with matters that those unconnected with Scotland are not likely even to understand. I am persuaded that most English Members would frankly admit that the mere terminology in connection with these Bills is unintelligible to them, and I am sure they do not appreciate the distinctions between English and Scottish Local Government. Further, let me point out this, that the proposal before the House does not prejudice the full control of the House in the matter. If a Committee of Scottish Members were to report on the Bill in a sense different from that of the whole House, it would be in the power of the House to make changes on Report, but there will be the great advantage of having the deliberate opinion of the Scottish Members on the subject, and I think from that, definitely pronounced, the House would not see fit to differ. Only two objections can be raised to the proposal of my hon. Friend. The first is that the example might be dangerous, and that the claim might be made for Irish measures to be treated in the same manner. I admit that would be very likely to ensue, but let me also point out how flagrantly unjust it is to deny to 1493 Scotland what is expedient for such a settled, law-abiding country, because a different state of things exists in Ireland! The second objection is the fear that the Bill—which the best possible advocacy cannot describe as very advanced—might be turned by the Scottish Members into a formidable reality. No doubt the treatment of the liquor traffic, free education, and elective justices would be carried among the Scottish Members by a majority of at least three to one. But here again, if the majority of the representatives of Scotland wish for such measures, why should they be prevented from obtaining them by the majority of English Members? It is a fact that there is a growing feeling in Scotland of discontent and dissatisfaction at the continual overriding of the wishes of the Scottish Members, and the question of Home Rule for Scotland has grown enormously in popularity in consequence. I am perfectly aware that the extension of the system of delegation of public business may lead, and probably will lead, to some measure of this character being adopted before long, and I, for my part, am very willing to see it adopted, but what I do not desire to see is a feeling of this kind fostered by a sense of injustice and neglect, with a sense that the affairs of Scotland are managed without due regard to the opinions of her representatives. For this reason I support the Motion of my hon. Friend. I wish he had left it in its original form, but even in its mutilated condition it is sufficient to attract my sympathy and support.
§ * MR. SHAW-STEWART (Renfrew)
I will not yield to the temptation offered by hon. Gentlemen opposite to diverge into a Home Rule debate, though it is a tempting subject, and neither of the hon. Members who have spoken have been able to entirely avoid trenching upon it. But the hon. Gentleman who moved this Motion showed by the argument he used how very difficult it is to decide what are matters that concern Scotland alone and matters that require the attention of Parliament generally. The hon. Member spoke of Scotch Members who lived in Scot 1494 land, but there are Scottish Members in the House who are not connected with Scotland by birth or by domicile, while there are a number of Scottish Gentlemen representing English constituencies. The hon. and learned Member for Dumfries is far more logical in the position he takes up, he wishes the Bill to be reserved to a Committee of Scotch Members, whereas the hon. Member for Leith would add 30 other Members. But he has given us no reason why the magical number of 30 should be added to the Committee. He has given us no reason why his proposal is better than the proposal of the Government, which, indeed, is the much more likely of the two to conduce to a rapid and amicable settlement of the question. When the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland spoke of the Bill being regarded from a Scottish point of view he was speaking of the inception of the measure. [Mr. A. J.BALFOUR assented.] I presume he was speaking of the manner in which the measure had been drawn up from a purely Scottish point of view. But nobody will deny there are principles involved in the measure which are of wider import than even the question of Scottish nationality and questions that touch very closely on matters of Imperial importance such as control of the police and so forth. I suppose my hon. Friends opposite who wish this Bill to be referred to a Committee of Scotch Members have not forgotten that the majority of the Scottish Members in the present Parliament sit on the Opposition side of the House. The result of a Committee of the Scottish Members, therefore, might be to insert Amendments in the Bill which would alter its complexion entirely, and on the report to the House interminable debates would inevitably ensue. That is a contingency some hon. Members look forward to with favour. I am afraid there are some hon. Members who, although we have passed the Second Reading without Division, they do not wish to see these Bills passed into law as rapidly as some of us would wish. I have to look for some reason for this Motion, and I can only suppose they think that the Bills 1495 are too good for a Conservative Government to pass. I have a shrewd suspicion that some hon. Members opposite would like to go down to their constituents in Scotland and say "The Unionist Government have proposed this miserable Bill for Scotland; we will give you a good Bill." You do not like the idea of our bringing in this Bill which is for the good of Scotland. That is the only interpretation I can put on the action of the hon. Gentlemen, and judging by their demeanour at the present time I feel I am not far wrong in my suspicion. An hon. Member spoke of the deeds of Scotland adding lustre to the British Empire. That is very true, but he ought to remember that the Scottish deeds of which we are so proud have become more vividly impressed upon us because they have added lustre to the British Empire. The proposal of the hon. Member for Leith is that the Bill be committed to a Committee of the Scottish Members with the addition of 30 other Members. The Government proposal is that the principal Bill be discussed in Committee of the whole House, where, we hope, it will be discussed with advantage to the people of Scotland. We do not want to make Party capital out of these Bills. We do not want to go to Scotland and say it is a Unionist Government alone that has done this for you. We desire an improvement in the Local Government of Scotland. We hope hon. Gentlemen will assist us in giving an extended system of Local Government to the people of Scotland, and we trust that in the word people will be included all classes, landlords and tenants, occupiers and service men.
§ * MR. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh, W.)
The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw-Stewart) has disclaimed any desire to point out to the people of Scotland that it is the Unionist Government that has given them this Bill. I am afraid that if he takes up that attitude he is hardly following the lead of the Lord Advocate. The hon. and learned Gentleman speaks in a very different manner outside the House in the speech at Mill-port, which has been already alluded to. He congratulated the Unionists on its having been shown that their policy could not be rivalled by any proposition on the other side of the House. I think 1496 the criticism to which the Bill has been exposed shows how far the measure deserves the encomiums which the hon. and learned Gentleman showered upon it in his speech. Now, the Motion before the House is proposed with the object of saving time and making the Bill such that it will commend itself to those it directly concerns—namely, the Scottish people. The Government suggest that the first Bill, one consisting of 34 clauses, should be reserved for the Committee of the whole House, but that the second Bill, a measure of 70 odd clauses, should go to the Grand Committee on Law. Undoubtedly, to get the first Bill through the whole House will take a very considerable time. Indeed there is no reason to suppose less time will be occupied than was taken up by the discussion upon the Local Government Bill of last year. And then, if the second Bill is considered by the Grand Committee on Law, many points already considered in the House will again be discussed in the Committee, and the Bill will ultimately have to come before the House, and no doubt many important points will be raised a second time. Time, therefore, will be saved by adopting the proposal of the hon. Member for Leith. Again, I should like to recall to hon. Members what will be the constitution of the two rival Committees. The hon. Member for Leith proposes to establish a Committee of 102 Members, of whom 72 shall be Scotch Members and 30 English, Irish, and Welsh Members. The Scotch Members would be in the proportion of two to one. The Grand Committee on Law consists of 68 Members, and of these only nine are Scotch Members. It is proposed to add 15 Scotch representatives, so that you will only have 24 Scotch Members out of 83. The proportion of the Scottish representatives upon the Grand Committee on Law would therefore be very different indeed from what we should find it on the Committee proposed by the hon. Member for Leith. Unquestionably, to get a free expression of Scottish opinion the Committee of the whole House would be infinitely more satisfactory than in a Select Committee. Although we may be outvoted in the House, we shall all have an opportunity of sitting on the Committee of the whole 1497 House and of expressing our opinions on the various Amendments, instead of being merely one-third of a Grand Committee, the reports of the proceedings of which will be very limited. But still more, if you send this Bill to the Committee suggested by my hon. Friend, will you get a better expression of Scotch opinion.
* MR. A. GATHORNEHARDY (Sussex, East Grinstead)
I hope the House will bear with me for a few moments, if I, although an Englishman, take part in this discussion. I should not have thought of taking part in the Second Reading debate of a Scotch Bill; but if it be proposed that this Bill shall be discussed in Committee by Scotch Members alone, I cannot think that the question is one on which English Members have not a right to be heard, and I will, therefore, give the reasons why I am personally averse to this proposal. I have always been a strong supporter of Local Government, and I desire not only that there should be a wide and far-reaching system of local government in Scotland, but that it should in all its machinery carry out the wishes of the majority of the Scotch Members. But notwithstanding that admission, I cannot conceive that it is the right of the Scotch Members in the framing of a Local Government Bill of this description to have what I may call an exclusive voice, or such a preponderating voice that it would become exclusive, in settling the details of the measure. It seems to me that, whatever may be the details of a Local Government Bill, it is impossible for any country or any part of a country to frame a Local Government Bill for itself without trenching largely on what may be called imperial questions. There are in every country imperial questions and local questions, and it is a simple subtraction sum to say that if you take the local questions away the imperial questions will remain. If that is so, surely the corollary follows, that if a Local Government Bill is to be framed, and one particular part of the Empire is to decide what questions are to be given to that locality to 1498 determine, it must rest with them and them alone to decide whether or not they trench on those imperial questions which I for one desire always to retain in the hands of the Imperial Parliament. I do not desire to say much. The arguments on the other side have been very brief indeed—I think far too brief considering the magnitude of the questions raised by the Amendment. I do not wish to say anything disrespectful to the mover and seconder of the Motion, and the hon. Gentlemen who have supported them, but really they have advanced little or no argument in support of their propsition; and I venture to say also, they have merely travestied the arguments which those who oppose their proposition are likely to put forward. I do not think we are going to deal with this question simply on the ground of a saving of time, or that we are going to talk about reviving the Heptarchy which they said was the strongest argument on this side. We are not going to talk seriously about that, and I am not going to raise such an argument; but I should like, if I may, just for a few minutes, as far as possible show how far the practice of these hon. Gentlemen who have brought forward this proposition coincides with their theory. We have had, during the last Session of Parliament, a very prolonged discussion in Committee upon the English Local Government Bill, and according to the theory of the hon. Gentlemen who sit opposite I presume that if they and the Irish Members who sit below the Gangway are entitled for themselves to frame a local Government Bill in its main lines for Ireland and for Scotland, they would also conceive that it would be the right of English Members to frame a Local Government Bill for England. [Cheers.] I am glad to hear the cheers of the hon. Gentlemen opposite; but as far as my researches have gone, I cannot say that their practice bears out their theory. We had a long discussion in Committee upon the Local Government Bill for England. I am not now dealing with the Second Reading, nor am I dealing with large questions of principle. I am dealing rather, in the main, with those questions of machinery which we dealt with in the earlier clauses, and I have taken the trouble to examine to some 1499 extent into the part which Irish and Scotch Members took in the discussion and in the Divisions on the measure. We had in Committee 69 Divisions, in regard of the whole of which I shall not trouble the House. I think it sufficient for my purpose if I take the earliest 12 Divisions which we took in Committee of the whole House. I pass over the fact that it was on many occasions a Scottish Member who occupied the position of teller in those Divisions. I also wish to point out that it was the hon. Member for Fife who moved one of the most important Amendments. Taking these 12 Divisions, I find that in the various minorities there were 1,791 Members voted. Of these 1,791 Members who were in the minorities on these occasions, no less than 760, or between a third and a half of the whole number, were composed of those Irish and Scotch Members who think it is right that every part of the country should manage its own affairs. I admit there was a small number of Irish and Scotch Members in the majorities, but then I am dealing with the question of inconsistency, and I venture to think we shall find that the Members who voted in the majorities will, every one of them, go into the Lobby against the proposal of the hon. Member for Leith. I quite admit there may be some Party capital to be made out of a Division of this kind, but I cannot believe there is any serious intention of treating this as a fair and legitimate means of dealing with what is really an Imperial question. I believe myself it is our right, and it is our duty, to frame the great measures for every part of this United Empire—to frame them with a desire not merely for the benefit of the Empire, but for the benefit also of its component parts. I have little doubt that on mere questions of machinery as to which Scottish Members have a right to be heard, their views and opinions will be given that legitimate weight as every English Member wishes to give them, but if they trench upon those larger principles which are not the birthright of Scotland alone, but are the birthright of the whole Empire, we and every one of us will claim our right, and take our right, to discuss them. It is only within the last few years that the word 1500 "separation" has ever been heard in Scotland, but I hope and believe that the tide which has unfortunately risen will soon ebb, never to flow again, and that Scotchmen will soon be proud of being a part of the United Kingdom—no mean part of it, but still, only a part.
§ MR. A. ELLIOT (Roxburgh)
I should like to say a few words on this proposal, as a Scotchman and as a Scottish Member. My hon. Friend, who seconded the Motion says that the desire for Home Rule has been gaining ground in Scotland of late. If that is so in Scotland, the reverse is the case within these walls, for it was not many weeks ago that troops of Scottish Members—not, I am happy to say, the majority of the Representatives of the Scottish nation—mustered in the Lobby in support of a much more extreme proposal than that we are now considering. It was proposed to set up a Parliament to legislate exclusively for Scotland. Time went on, and the hon. Member for Leith laid his proposal before the House proposing to refer Scottish Bills to an exclusive Committee framed on the principle of the Scottish nationality. He no doubt took counsel with right hon. Friends of his—with the right hon. Gentlemen who, when the more extreme proposal was made, went out of the House rather than record a vote against it. Having consulted with the right hon. Gentleman, the hon. Member for Leith puts down on the Paper a very different Motion, which cuts out the principle on which the original proposal was made. The proposal to set up a Scottish Committee to deal with Scottish Bills has disappeared, and now the House has to consider solely the proposal to constitute a Committee of which only two-thirds shall be Scottish Members. This Bill is proposed on the responsibility of the Government, and is it to be seriously contended that it shall cease to be controlled by the Government the moment it passes the Second Reading stage? You cannot have measures proposed by the Government and accepted in principle by the majority of the House, and then given over to be settled in detail by a majority bitterly opposed to the Government. Hon. Gentlemen who support the proposal of the hon. Member for Leith must deal with that point. 1501 The Scottish Members ought to be a little more careful of the equality that should exist between themselves and the English Members, and between the Scottish and English people. If you are to proceed on the lines of setting up a separate Parliament, or a Committee that is to be exclusively Scotch, then, as a necessary result, you will be bound to face this position—that the English Members will insist upon the same thing, and the Scottish Members will be excluded from the discussion of English Local Government, of the regulation of English ecclesiastical affairs, and of many other matters of great importance not only to England, but to Scottish people as well. I heard cheers from below the Gangway when I talked about the English Members claiming the exclusive right to manage English affairs; but I have always held that England cannot be regarded as a mere limited district of the United Kingdom. England is a country of so much importance, and the questions that arise in connection with England are of such vast moment to the rest of the United Kingdom, that it would be a mockery to say that Scotland can have no concern in English questions. Just look for a moment at the question of Local Government. We had brought forward during the past Session a measure for the Local Government of England. I never heard any suggestion that it would be right and proper to leave the English Bill to be discussed exclusively by the English Members. Why, among the right hon. Gentlemen who took part in the discussion of that measuse, were the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone), who is a Scottish Member; the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir G. Trevelyan), who is also a Scottish Member; the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), another Scottish Member; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers)—all of them representatives of Scottish constituencies. Is it to be seriously put forward—can it be put forward seriously—that it would have been right and wise as a practical matter to get rid, in the discussions in Committee on the English Local Government Bill, of the 1502 right hon. Gentlemen whose names I have just mentioned? Surely such a proposition cannot be seriously advanced. We have heard a great deal about the over-ruling of Scottish opinion; but are we so to confine the discussion of all important local questions which affect ourselves, that Members of one nation, neither the English, Irish, Scotch, nor Welsh Members are to take any part in questions which are the immediate concern of either of the other geological divisions of the United Kingdom? If we are to go for a distinctive principle, let us go for it thoroughly. If we are for a Scottish Parliament, let us go for a Scottish Parliament, with a Scottish Executive; and in that case we must also accept an English Parliament with an English Executive, an Irish Parliament with an Irish Executive, and a Welsh Parliament with a Welsh Executive. I think I have gone far enough with reference to the proposals of the Government. As I understand them, they are proposals not made solely in relation to Scotch Bills, but with regard to matters that may be extended to English Bills. The plan of the Government appears to me to be to separate principle and detail, by putting great principles into one measure and machinery and details into another. It certainly seem to me to be a considerable advance in the direction of effective reform in the procedure of the House when it is proposed to refer matters of detail and machinery to something in the nature of a Select Committee, while retaining great principles for the consideration of the whole House. Whether the Committee now proposed would be the right Committee to which this particular measure should be referred, or whether it ought not to be discussed in Committee of the whole House, is another matter. I am bound to say that in my opinion the second Bill is one consisting mainly of detail, as to which I do not see why the minutiæ should not be discussed by the Scottish Members, though I should be very willing to let some one else take my place on the Law Committee to which it is to be referred. I undoubtedly think that the proposal of the Government marks a distinct step in the direction of giving increased power and efficiency to the action of 1503 this House. I do not think I need trouble the House any further on this matter. I hope that when we get into Committee we shall deal with the matter in a business-like spirit, with the view of making the measure a thoroughly practical one. It has hitherto been well discussed by both sides of the House, and I trust that we shall be able in Committee to carry it through in such a manner as to make it a starting point for Scotland in the direction of a good and effective system of Local Government.
§ * MR. J. SHIRESS WILL (Montrose)
Every hon. Gentleman in this House knows that in the ordinary course a Bill read a second time is referred to a Committee of the whole House, the reason being obvious. But contrary to this practice we have the fact that in regard to these Scotch Bills the Government intend to force upon this House a different course. We are told that the first Bill is to be referred to a Committee of the whole House, while the second Bill, which is said to be one of detail, is to be referred to the Law Committee. But I say that in the second Bill there are matters of principle from the discussion of which the Scotch Members would, by such a course, be largely shut out, at any rate it would be impossible to have a full representation of Scotch opinion on the matter. Now, supposing it is proposed in the second Bill, which is to be referred to the Law Committee—
§ MR. SPEAKER
I would point out to the hon. and learned Member that the second Bill is not now before the House, and that he is not therefore in order in discussing that measure.
§ * MR. J. SHIRESS WILL
Then, Sir, I will confine myself to the first Bill. My hon. Friend (Mr. A. Elliot) has found fault with the alteration of the Motion put upon the Paper by the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Munro Ferguson), and has said that it is no longer sought to have a full discussion by the Scottish Members of what is 1504 essentially a Scottish Bill. But nothing of the sort is intended by this proposal. When legislation of this kind was brought forward last Session, and we had the whole matter threshed out in this House, we found how impossible it was to get a reference to Scotch Members exclusively; and, therefore, in regard to this Bill we have asked that there should he joined with the Scottish! Representatives thirty other Members to be nominated by the Committee of Selection. We did this for a very good reason, because it was thought that all Members having a special knowledge of Scotland should have the opportunity of giving us the benefit of their experience in the discussion of the measure. There are many hon. Members who come within this category, besides which, there are many who have had large experience of Local Government in England whose voices, we thought, would also be useful in our discussions. Therefore, instead of the modification my hon. Friend has made in his proposal being open to objection, it must be acknowledged that he has only endeavoured to meet the objections which might be raised on the other side of the House. My hon. Friend opposite (Mr. G. Hardy has said if you subtract local matters from Imperial Government something will remain which must necessarily be Imperial, and in the discussion of which all Members of the House are entitled to assist. But my hon. Friend applying his theory found in this Bill the Alderman, and thought that the Aldermanic office must be a matter of Imperial concern. Hemight have known that in Scotland, and for very good reasons, we do not desire to have anything of the sort. That is exactly the reason why we desire to have a Bill which will have in it something consonant with the wishes and desires of the Scottish people. We do not desire to have the four bare walls that have been displayed to us and made the most of. We wish to see the space within those four walls furnished with some of the things we desire. What will be the result if this Motion is not acceded to? That English Members, without taking part in the discussions, will, in a division, 1505 outvote Scotch Members, all the while believing that they are doing their duty.
THE SOLICITOR-GENERAL FOR SCOTLAND (Mr. MOIR T. STORMONTH DARLING, Edinburgh and Aberdeen Universities)
Mr. Speaker, I find that Scotch members who are most anxious for proposals of this kind, and most jealous of the interference of English Members in Scotch affairs, are members who, like the hon. and learned gentleman who has just sat down, have been driven by a cruel fate to spend their lives at the English Bar. My hon. friend the member for Leith Burghs, however, is not open to that aspersion. The hon. gentleman delivered his speech with becoming gravity, but with a twinkle in his eye, and it became apparent that he had been compelled by some mysterious force at the back or in front of him to mutilate his motion, and he took his revenge by delivering his speech against the motion as it stands on the Paper. Now, if English Members are not to intervene between Scotch measures and Scotch affairs, I seriously ask Scotch Members why they intervene, as they do, between English measures and English affairs. During the short time I have had the honour of a seat in this House I have not found my hon. friend opposite limiting his mind to Scotland, though that may be said of a great many hon. Members sitting on this side of the House. If hon. Members opposite really insist on the principle that Scotch affairs are to be reserved as a subject for Scotch Members alone, they ought to begin by setting a good example and leaving English affairs to English Members. The two rival proposals before the House, are that of my hon. friend for a hybrid Committee, consisting of all the Scotch Members, and of 30 English Members—why 30 he has not explained—and that of the Government, which is simple and straightforward, to remit the Bill to a Committee of the whole House. If the Government had taken any other course they would, I venture to say, have been instantly met with the inquiry, "Why do you propose 1506 to treat this important Bill differently from the English Local Government Bill? Why treat the former with less respect than the latter?" When you come to examine the alternative of my hon. Friend it comes in plain English to this: he says in effect—"If you send the Bill to a Committee of the whole House I am afraid there will be obstruction, and if you do not like obstruction then there is the alternative proposed to take the Bill off your hands."
MR. M. FERGUSON
I said nothing whatever about obstruction in my speech. I said that, judging from the time Scotch Members had found it necessary to occupy—I believe without any idea of obstruction—on the Second Reading, if the discussions bore any proportion in Committee to those on the Second Reading, they would take up a vast amount of the time of the House.
The right hon. Member has merely put with parentheses that which I put in a shorter phrase. But does it not come to this—"If you do not want to have the time of the House, I will not say 'wasted,' but 'consumed'—then hand us over the Bill to do what we like with." My hon. Friend knows perfectly well that of the 72 Scotch Members there are 46 on the Opposition side and 26 on the Ministerial side, and, adding the 30 which presumably are to be drawn equally from both sides, the result is that the hon. Member's side would have 61 to the Government's 41. That is sufficient to show that the proposal could hardly be treated seriously. Has it been ever heard of in Parliamentary history that an important Bill named in the Queen's Speech should be handed over by a Government to their political opponents? It is a proposal to which the Government cannot accede. We have stated our utmost desire to accept suggestions from all parts of the House, and if it be urged that time would be saved by the operation, that argument is sufficiently met by the further argument of the hon. Gentleman that the whole proceedings of the Committee would be open for review by the House 1507 when the Bill came up on Report. Thus the whole work would probably have to be done over again. Therefore, I say this cannot be a serious proposal, and I cannot better express the view which the Government takes of it than by quoting the observation of one hon. Member of this House, who is treated with great deference in all parts of it, namely, the hon. Member for Bedford, on a Motion for the appointment of a Standing Committee for the consideration of Bills relating to Scotland only:—If the proposal was that this Committee should consist of Scotch Members exclusively, or that on the Committee the Scotch Members should so preponderate as to overbear all other opinions, it was a bad and a dangerous proposal, because it would only tend to accentuate the differences that might possibly exist between the two countries.
§ MR. WHITBREAD (Bedford)
I had no intention of taking any part in this debate, but as the hon. and learned Gentleman has been good enough to quote from some observations I made last year, I may perhaps be allowed to give some explanation. On that occasion I referred to what had occurred in this House within the last one or two years, and pointed out that it was not unlikely that some such proposal as this would be made. We last year asked the Government to refer Scotch measures to a Grand Committee formed in the ordinary way, and I warmly urged the Government to accede to that proposal, but it did not find favour with them; although I told them that if they refused it, it was likely larger demands would be made hereafter. The hon. and learned Gentleman has admitted that the Government do not represent Scotland. Since last year he has turned his attention to the subject, and found that the Government do not represent Scotland. Upon Scotch business how, then, is the mind of the Government to be informed? It will not be informed by their own intelligence—not that I consider them unintelligent—and it will not be informed by their friends, because, as a matter of fact, those who sit behind them do not represent Scotland. How, then, is the Government to 1508 be better informed of the wishes of Scotland than by having a Committee largely composed of Scotch Members? I would not vote for a Committee composed altogether of Scotch Members; there should be a large number of English Members upon it in order that the mind of England should be advised of the wishes of Scotland, and that the Committee should learn what the objections of England may be to any particular proposals. If the Government will not accept this Motion, they will give a fresh spur to the demand for a purely Scotch Committee.
§ MR. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
I should be sorry indeed to interpose between the House and my hon. Friend who has just sat down, and who speaks with so much authority on this class of question, to which he has given much thought and time with such excellent effect in the public interest. But having heard the case of the Government, I wish to say a few words. This Motion is not conceived in a spirit of extreme concession to the idea of Scotch nationality; but at the same time, I have no doubt that it is conceived—it is certainly supported by myself—with the firm conviction that it would be extremely inconvenient to the Government and the House entirely to overlook and refuse recognition to the wishes of the Scotch Members. The consequence, I venture to say from what I know of Scotland, will be extremely inconvenient, especially to the Government and their supporters. The arguments for the Motion are not devoid of weight. In the first place, we want to have this Bill referred to the fittest Committee that we can get, and our opinion is that a Committee formed of the whole body of Scotch Members, together with a liberal addition of Members from other portions of the United Kingdom, would be a fitter Committee for the purpose of considering and despatching this Bill than a Committee formed, as far as listening 1509 to and sharing in the Debates are concerned, of sixty or seventy Members, but which, when a Division is about to be taken, is reinforced by 200 or 300 gentlemen, three-fourths of whom have heard nothing of the discussion. We hold that these Bills should be referred to one and the same Committee, and when I ask myself why the Bills have been separated, I can find no good reason in the nature of the case. They are separated for a reason altogether artificial in order that they may be referred to different Committees. But that is a thing to be avoided and deprecated, because a contradictory method of dealing with them might be the result, the more competent tribunal being confined to the less important Bill and the less competent tribunal to the more important Bill. There is great force in the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Leith that the mode of action proposed by him would save the time of the House. The Solicitor General for Scotland says that that means if they do not take this mode there will be obstruction. According to the hon. and learned Gentleman, therefore, when my hon. Friend submits that time is likely to be wasted by a particular mode of proceeding that means a threat of obstruction. When it is shown that a Grand Committee would work with expedition, the hon. and learned Gentleman has the boldness to say that is a periphrasis for obstruction. The Grand Committees are founded to save the time of the House, and the Bills referred to them are the least likely to be obstructed. The speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman is adapted to the time when his friends were opposing the institution of Grand Committees. To say that on the proposed Committee the Government would be in a minority is to treat this Bill as a Party question; but it has not been so treated, and I hope it will not be. The consideration of Scotch nationality combined with the consideration of fitness in the tribunal is a matter of greater weight and moment than an argument drawn from a computation of numbers. It is rather hard upon Scotland to be punished for returning a majority of Liberal Members by having a Bill of this kind referred 1510 to the less competent Committee, when it is in the power of the House to refer it to a more competent Committee. The hon. and learned Gentleman says that this is not a serious proposal. Sir, in my opinion, it is a very serious proposal, and in time the hon. and learned Gentleman will learn how serious it is. I entreat the House to take a prudential view, and I warn it that the nationality of Scotland is not to be trifled with. The Scotch are a dangerous people, and that majority so dolefully recited as a fact will be greatly aggravated unless the Scotch people are treated with prudence and consideration. If it is a Party question the Government would be in a difficulty in the proposed Committee; but we have endeavoured not to treat this as a Party question. The jurisdiction of a Grand Committee is not a final one, and any grave error committed by the Committee could be rectified by the House. When it is said that Scotch Members should begin by abstaining from English affairs, it must be remembered that the much smaller number of Scotch Members as compared with English makes all the difference in the character and effect of their interference. This question of nationality in Scotland is in a critical condition; the mind of Scotland is in a state of considerable susceptibility, and the House will act wisely if it makes moderate concessions lest resistance should lead to the enlargement of future demands, and the House should have to display the reverse of courage by something like ignominious surrender.
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
The right hon. Gentleman seldom touches the question of nationality without attempting to aggravate any difference that may possibly exist between the various component parts of the United Kingdom. I do not think that the speech which has been delivered to us is an exception from that general rule. He has told us that the mind of Scotland was uninformed.
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Unformed on this question. How does he attempt to form it? Does he attempt to bind closer the tie which unites England and Scotland? I say he attempts to loosen 1511 it. The hon. Member for Bedford, in a speech which I listened to with amazement, told us that the opinion of last Session was one which he has abandoned; that he has taken a new view of the claims of Scotland; and that if we do not give way to the claims which Scotland he says is making (and which I believe Scotland is not making) there will be further claims next year. I have no doubt the hon. Member would give in to those claims next year as he has given it to the claims of this year; and would be prepared to carry on the process ad infinitum until Scotland was a separate kingdom. [An ironical cheer from Mr. GLADSTONE.] The right hon. Gentleman has told us that in these Grand Committees is the solution of this question of nationality.
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Well, the palliation of the difficulties between the separate parts of the kingdom. But the right hon. Gentleman was the creator of these Committees; he was their inventor, their author. Is there in the constitution of these Committees the slightest arrangement corresponding to that which we are now asked to accept? The Grand Committees were framed to represent the balance of Parties in the House. This was their essence, and if we destroy that essence we should make the greatest revolution in Parliamentary procedure that has been made in the last century. Every one knows that the essence of our legislative procedure in this House is that the Government which introduces Bills should be responsible for their conduct through the House, and in order to carry that out the Government need at its back that majority which makes it the Government. It is now proposed for the first time, and in absolute contradiction of the principles laid down by the right hon. Gentleman himself—
§ MR. GLADSTONE
No. I wish the right hon. Gentleman would acquaint himself with the declarations made by me in connection with these Grand Committees—namely, that they were a mere tentative experiment—[Cries of "Oh, oh!"]—that is one way of con 1512 ducting Parliamentary Debate which I do not wish to encourage—and that they were not in the form that they were finally capable of taking.
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am speaking, and speaking accurately, of the plan as carried into effect by the right hon. Gentleman. He never told us what the final development would be. We were never allowed to see the grown man; we are only shown the embryo. This is a revolution so great that I think the House would be insane, absolutely insane, if it accepted it without the most serious discussion. I think I can bring that truth home by an illustration even in the three minutes still left to me. The present Government is in a majority in this House, but it is not in a majority of the Scotch Members. Referring the Bill to a Committee of Scotch Members would therefore be entrusting one of its stages to a body which represented neither the Government nor the House. Now the right hon. Gentleman has been, and hopes to be again, in a majority in this House, but he has not been for 20 years in a majority of English Members. No, not since '68, and I do not believe there is the slightest chance of his ever being again in a majority. Is he prepared to look forward to a period when he, as leader of this House and the person responsible for legislation in that House will have to carry out the principle he is now laying down? Is he prepared to refer important English Bills to a Grand Committee in which the balance of parties in the Imperial Parliament will not be represented, but in which the balance of feeling in England would be represented? Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to subject his English legislation to a Conservative majority of English Members and throw overboard his Scotch and Irish followers? If that is the case the right hon. Gentleman will find that the wheels of legislation will drag even more heavily than in the past, and that he will not be able to carry through the House the Bills he introduced in anything like the shape in which he introduced them. 1513 The House divided:—Ayes 239; Noes 177.—(Div. List No. 132.)
Main Question put.
Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House for Monday 17th June.